The negative trend seems inevitable: a national survey carried out by the Ministry of Health in 2013 concluded that 57.9% of the Argentine population was overweight or obese. For 2019, the same investigation was repeated and the prevalence of excess weight increased, reaching 61.6% (36.3% overweight and 25.3% obese). In addition, comparing this figure with that of 2005, obesity increased by no less than 73.3%. Broadly speaking, today it is estimated that at least six out of ten Argentines over the age of 18 are overweight and one in four is obese. All the worrying figures that took on a new highlight yesterday, March 4, when a new World Obesity Day was registered –with concern–.
This situation is clearly global: recent data published by the World Health Organization suggest that the phenomenon of obesity has tripled in the last fifty years. And by 2016, some 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Of these, more than 650 million were directly obese.
Why is this sign –in not so distant times associated with “good health”– today a bad index? “Because today we know that extra kilos, the “excessive accumulation of body fat”, can lead to other types of complex diseases such as diabetes or hypertension”, answers doctor Jorge Harraca, president of the Argentine Society of Obesity Surgery (SACO). . And he added: “Today we consider that obesity is a multifactorial disease, and the factors that cause it are several. They range from following unbalanced diets, to a certain genetic predisposition, hormonal changes and different psychological problems are added”.
In addition, the expert recorded that there are different levels of this social problem, reaching “morbid obesity”, at the most acute point of being overweight. But all excess kilos cause, to a greater or lesser extent, a loss of quality of life for people and also cause a reduction in life expectancy.
“On the other hand”, send this expert, “Argentina is one of the countries with the highest rate of obesity among its population in all of Latin America.”
Consequences. What are the consequences of the extra kilos, over the years? According to a document published by the Argentine Society of Cardiology (SAC), “obesity is an independent risk factor that accelerates the development of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure and arrhythmias. And Ezequiel Forte, director of the Cardiometabolism Council of the SAC, explained that “obesity is responsible for the development of a large part of the so-called “non-communicable diseases”. Specifically, according to Forte, excess body fat or its abnormal distribution produce an inflammatory state and are associated with different metabolic complications such as type 2 diabetes, arterial hypertension, endocrinological and immunological alterations, and –even– types of cancer, fatty liver , difficulties sleeping, depression and infertility, among other conditions”.
These health consequences are not the only ones. From the point of view of the economy, it also has its side. A study published in 2018 found that, if the values faced by health systems are analyzed, being overweight causes a 20% increase in health care costs and, in the case of obese people, this increase would be 50 % This problem is further exacerbated when indirect costs such as increased absenteeism and decreased productivity are added to the equation.
An important point in this problem is the one pointed out by Juliana Mociulsky, endocrinologist and director of Codyn (Obesity, Diabetes and Nutrition Office). She is about how she “sees” and how society considers people who are overweight or obese. “In these issues, the wrong prejudice usually prevails, that those with extra kilos could control their condition if they decided to eat less and exercise. It is usually considered as if it were a simple problem of lack of will. “But the reality,” says this expert, “is much more complex: it is a pathology with a multi-causal origin, so it can only be addressed comprehensively and considering the particularities of each particular case, since it does not affect the same way to all people.”
In summary, overweight is today the most prevalent chronic disease and one in which society, and also many doctors, continue to have a perception that underestimates it. However, effectively addressing obesity would reduce mortality, improve quality of life and, along the way, reduce healthcare costs.
◆ According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in America obesity affects 28% of the adult population.
◆ PAHO concluded its plan for the prevention of obesity in childhood and adolescence in 2014.
◆ In 2019, health problems related to this disease accounted for more than 5 million deaths worldwide.
◆ 98% of people who seek a solution to a recurring problem solely through a diet fail.
The patient manifesto
For this Obesity Day, a dozen patient associations presented their “Manifesto”. This is a document that received the support of groups such as the Argentine Diabetes Federation, the Hemophilia Foundation, the Lupus Córdoba Foundation, the Comprehensive Community Care Foundation for Cancer Patients, the Argentine Multiple Sclerosis, among others, and which recalls that “obesity is a pandemic that causes at least 2.8 million deaths every year.” One of its spokesmen, Gabriel Lijteroff – director of the Scientific Committee of the Argentine Diabetes Federation – recalled that “obesity is a multifactorial disease that can be addressed and treated to avoid the complications that can result”. And he added that, among the recommendations, he proposes the existence of “health prevention programs regulated by public policies that promote healthy lifestyle habits; education that facilitates healthy behaviors and addressing the multifactorial origin of obesity and reducing the social stigma that it entails”. He ultimately advocated launching effective communication campaigns to raise awareness about prevention.
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