National Obesity Awareness Week

This week is National Obesity Awareness Week. I think most of us know that this has become a huge public health issue and some of the statistics are shocking.

  • Between 1993 and 2013 the number of adults classified as obese rose from 15% to 25%[1].

  • In 2013 around 62% of adults were classed as overweight or obese[2].

  • A 2007 report estimated that obesity will add £5.5bn of costs to the NHS by 2050.[3]

According to current guidelines, you are classified as obese if you have a BMI of 30 or more and you are classed as overweight if you have a BMI between 25 and 29.9 [4]. I would like to add at this point that BMI can be quite a crude way of measuring weight as it does not take into consideration things like body shape. That said, if your BMI is getting close to the 30 mark, some attention is needed.

This might all sound quite depressing and it is certainly important for us to take notice. However, the good news is that there is so much we can do to improve people’s weight. Firstly, it is important to remember that there are many factors that can be involved.

Gut Health

There is more and more research emerging about our gut and the intricate relationship it has with so many different parts of our body. The microbes in our gut are some of the most important elements in our health and well-being. In terms of our weight they can affect our appetite[5], help regulate insulin and metabolism[6]. A particular group of bacteria, called Firmicutes have been implicated in obesity and weight gain and are generally found in high levels in the guts of obese and overweight people[7]. These bacteria absorb dietary fat, break down fibre and increase the absorption of dietary fat to a greater extent than other gut bacteria. This is interesting because it tells us that people with higher levels of firmicutes can gain excess body fat without even eating extra food.One of the most fascinating elements to all of this is the case of people who receive a fecal transplant and become obese when previously they were lean[8]. I think that this really backs up the gut microbiome theory as we can see how much your gut bacteria affects your weight.Another way that the gut environment can affect weight is through inflammation. As I have already mentioned, gut bacteria in obese people tends to be imbalanced. This can cause inflammation in the gut which in turn affects the integrity of the gut lining, meaning that bacteria and can leak out into systemic circulation and cause inflammatory responses throughout the body. This also affects insulin resistance and fat accumulation in the body[9].

Hormones

You can always blame your hormones for something! This is particularly relevant for ladies as your hormones and weight are inextricably linked at various points in your life. Another way that hormones are affected by weight is fat itself. Fat tissue becomes a very powerful endocrine organ[10], meaning that it affects the balance of your hormones and acts as a hormone itself. This is also relevant for ladies experiencing the menopause. As the ovaries stop producing oestrogen, your fat tissue becomes one of the main sources of oestrogen which is why your body can cling to fat at this time of life [11].

Stress

This is something that affects pretty much everyone at some point. Excess stress and certainly chronic stress can have a real impact on your weight. Your stress hormone, cortisol can increase your appetite hormones and insulin levels. This can lead to insulin resistanc end in turn weight gain.

This might all sound lik ea bit of a minefield but it is possible to prevent or act on these areas. Here are my top tips for regulating your weight.

Keep your blood sugar balanced

Eat regular meals with good quality protein and plenty of vegetables. Avoid sugar wherever possible and limit fruit to 2 portions a day.

Get plenty of essential fats

This means oily fish and for vegetarians, nuts, seeds, avocadoes.

Keep regular

Drink plenty of water and get a good serving of fibre every day in the form of fresh vegetables (green and leafy are best) and whole grains.

Love your gut

Consider a probiotic or at the least natural, live yoghurt. fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut or kefir are also great for nalancing your gut bacteria.

Manage your stress

Try and give yourself a break, turn the laptop off in the evenings, schedule in relaxation time if you need to and rememebr to give yourself time away from all screens (computer, phone, TV) every day.

Get plenty of exercise

This does it all - weight, stress, hormones, gut health; it's all linked. Aim for 1 hour, 3 times a week and rememember that it doesn't have to be too strenuous. Something like yoga or pilates has great health benefits and is very relaxing.

[1] Public Health England PHE publications gateway number: 2015432

[2] Public Health England PHE publications gateway number: 2015432

[3] Executive summary: Foresight 'Tackling Obesities: Future Choices' project. Kopelman et al. 2007.

[4] Public Health England

[5] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413115005665

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25921831

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705322/

[8] http://ofid.oxfordjournals.org/content/2/1/ofv004.full

[9] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25695388

[10] http://www.iub.edu/~k662/articles/obesity/endocrine%20Kershaw%202004.pdf

[11] http://hormonebalance.org/images/documents/Simpson%2003%20Sources%20of%20Estrogen%20JSBMB.pdf


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