~Obesity and Weight Loss

~Obesity and Weight Loss
Reprinted with permission of Life Extension®.

As people age, they often accumulate excess body fat. Weight gain not only creates cosmetic problems, but it also contributes to disorders such as Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cartilage breakdown, sexual dysfunction, and even cancer. Typical approaches to conventional weight loss have a high failure rate. However, the scientific literature provides data indicating that sustained weight management is attainable.

Carrying extra pounds has a profound impact on our health and well-being. Perhaps the most devastating emotional impact of being overweight comes from the frustration of continued dieting without success or ending up heavier than ever after following a diet.

Many physicians fail to realize that no single fat reduction protocol will work for everyone. That is why overweight people must follow a custom-tailored program to modulate factors in their body that result in excess fat build-up. There are several common culprits that cause aging people to add body fat and to also prevent them from losing it. These missing links are often overlooked, and the result is that most weight loss programs fail.

In this protocol, the mechanisms involved in age-associated weight gain will be discussed, and how an individual can circumvent these metabolic imbalances will be described as well. Most important, overlooked factors that preclude successful weight loss in the majority of people who try to "diet" will be revealed.

Definition: Obesity is defined as an excess accumulation of body fat associated with increased fat cell size and number. The term overweight denotes excessive body weight relative to height.

The most common medical assessment of obesity is "body mass index." Body mass index (BMI) is calculated based on body weight (measured in kilograms) divided by height (measured in meters squared). A person is considered overweight if they have a BMI of 25-29.9. A person with a BMI greater than 30 is classified as being "obese" (Flegal et al. 1998).


  • Dangers of Obesity
  • Economic Costs
  • Dietary Trends

The majority of adults in the United States are overweight (BMI over 25), with an increasing number being medically classified as obese (BMI over 30). Unfortunately, the trend is increasing. The prevalence of obesity in the United States has almost doubled compared to the year 1980 (NIH 1998; WHO 1998).

The Dangers of Obesity

It is clear that excess weight has a dramatic impact on one's health. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable deaths (tobacco being first). Overweight and obesity are known risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and some forms of cancer (uterine, breast, colorectal, kidney, prostate, pancreatic, and gallbladder).

Obesity is associated with stress, incontinence, complications of pregnancy, menstrual irregularities, excess facial hair, increased surgical risk, and psychological disorders such as depression. Epidemiological evidence supports popular belief that the BMI associated with the lowest mortality falls within the range of 18.5-24.9, i.e., thinner people live much longer (Baird 1994; Stevens 2000).

Weight gain in adulthood is associated with significant increased mortality. In the famous Framingham Heart Study, the risk of death increased by 1% for each extra pound (0.45 kg) increase in weight between 30 and 42 years of age and increased by 2% between 50 and 62 years of age (Solomon et al. 1997; Kopelman 2000). The subjects in the Framingham Heart Study were followed for 26 years. Another study found that fat loss was associated with a decrease in mortality rate (Allison et al. 1999).

Economic Costs

The healthcare costs related to overweight and obesity are staggering. According to statistics collected in 1995, the direct economic cost of dealing with excess body fat in the United States was $99.2 billion. The indirect costs were projected at $47.6 billion due to wages lost by people unable to work because of illness or disability (Cerulli et al. 1998; Wolf et al. 1998; Colditz 1999). Both the direct and indirect costs of dealing with obesity are skyrocketing. For instance, many airlines require obese individuals to fly first class or to purchase two coach seats because other passengers refuse to sit cramped in a narrow seat next to an obese person who cannot fit into their own seat.

Dietary Trends

In the year 2002, the Surgeon General estimated that 65.4% of Americans were clinically overweight (having a BMI of 25 or greater) of which 30.5% are considered obese. As noted earlier, a person with a BMI greater than 30 is classified as being "obese" (Flegal et al. 1998).

According to the National Institutes of Health, adults who have a BMI of 25 or more are considered at risk for premature death and disability as a consequence of overweight and obesity. These health risks increase even more as the severity of an individual's obesity increases (NIH 1998).

The statistics on obesity in the United States are alarming. To make matters worse, the prevalence of obesity has been steadily increasing over the past decades. Perhaps even more disturbing is that this increase often occurs simultaneously with a decrease in average fat intake and total calories, along with a dramatic rise in the consumption of low-fat products. There was no change in the prevalence of sedentary lifestyle. According to this report, people are adding more weight even though they are eating less fat and exercising regularly (Heini et al. 1997). More recent reports, however, indicate that many Americans are consuming too many calories, while simultaneously reducing physical activity (Serdula et al. 1999; Astrup 2001; Mokdad et al. 2001).

As you will learn later, acutely cutting calorie intake is not the ideal way of achieving long-term weight control in the obese and in fact may preclude successful fat loss in many overweight individuals.

Continued . . .

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