A Literature Review of Role of Obesity in Adult Health with Reference to Africa
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Although obesity is a global epidemic that affects every socio-economic class, little is available in the literature on the status of the syndrome in Africa. This literature review was therefore written in order to highlight the causes, effects and potential mitigation measures of the syndrome with particular interest on the status of the condition in Africa. Obesity results from an incorrect energy balance leading to an increased store of energy, mainly as fat. The major factors that contribute to obesity include over-nutrition, physical inactivity, change of dietary habits, modernization, consumption of high fat, high carbohydrate foods, urbanization and in a minority of patients a physical condition or metabolic disturbance. Body mass index (BMI) is currently being used by competent authorities as an index of obesity. BMI differentiates classes of obesity, with class I, II and III being identified with BMI of ≥30 but <35, ≥35 but <40, and ≥40, respectively. A BMI of 18.5-25 is regarded as normal. However, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate obesity due to excess fat deposition and that due to muscle atrophy. Also, current procedures for estimating body fat percentage are not as accurate as they should and often give different results. Despite women tending to be more obese than men, they are less prone to hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes than men before they reach menopause due to their fat deposition being predominantly sub-cutaneous rather than abdominal. In 2010, the WHO estimated that about 1.4 billion adults were overweight and obese, but 300-400 million were obese. The defining metabolic changes in obesity are decreased glucose tolerance, decreased sensitivity to insulin, hyperinsulinemia and reduced life expectancy. Obesity can be treated by restricting food intake and engaging in regular physical exercises. Other measures include the use of anorectic drugs and various forms of jejunoileostomy. Obesity is a controllable behavioural disorder, with regular exercise and sensible eating being the best ways to regulate body fat percentage and maintain a healthy body weight. As it is difficult to treat obesity, efforts should be directed towards prevention in order to keep it in check.