Obesity may be defined as an abnormal growth of the adipose tissue due to an enlargement of fat cell size or an increase in fat cell number or a combination of both. Obesity is often expressed in terms of body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 30 or more in males and 28.6 or more in females indicates obesity. The term "overweight" means a weight in excess of the average for a given sex, height and age. Overweight is usually due to obesity but can arise from other causes such as abnormal muscle development or fluid retention. How much Common is Obesity: Obesity is perhaps the most prevalent form of malnutrition in developed countries, both among adults and children. It is extremely difficult to assess the size of the problem and compare the prevalence rates in different countries as no exact figures are available and also because the definitions of obesity are not standardized. Further, there has been an increased awareness of the problem in recent years. However it has been estimated to affect 20 to 40 per cent of the adults and 10 to 20 per cent of children and adolescents in developed countries. It is a misconception that obesity is primarily a problem in the affluent countries; in fact, it is found in all countries in varying degrees.
Causes of Obesity
Age: Obesity can occur at any age, and generally increases with age. Infants with excessive weight gain have an increased incidence of obesity in later life. About one-third of obese adults have been so since childhood. It has been well established that most adipose cells are formed early in life and the obese infant lays down more of these cells than the normal infant. Hyperplastic obesity in adults is extremely difficult to treat with conventional methods.
Sex: In the Framingham, USA study, men were found to gain most weight between the ages of 29 and 35 years, while women gain most between 45 and 49 years of age.
Genetic factors: There is a genetic component in the aetiology of obesity. Twin studies have shown a close correlation between the weights of identical twins even when they are reared in dissimilar environments. But it has been difficult to examine the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors.
Physical inactivity: Physical inactivity may cause obesity, which in turn restricts activity. This is a viscous circle. It is the reduced energy output that is probably more important in the aetiology of obesity than used to be thought.
Socio-economic status: The relationship of obesity to social class has been studies in some detail. There is a clear inverse relationship between socio-economic status and obesity. within some affluent countries, however, obesity has been found to be more prevalent in the lower socio-economic groups.
Eating habits: Eating habits (e.g., eating in between meals, preference to sweets, refined foods and fats) are established very early in life. The composition of the diet, the periodicity with which it is eaten and the amount of energy derived from it are all relevant to the aetiology of obesity. A diet containing more energy than needed may lead to prolonged post-prandial hyperlipidaemia and to deposition of triglycerides in adipose tissue resulting in obesity. It has been calculated that a child whose energy requirement is 2000 kcal / day and who consumes 100 kcal / day extra will gain about 5 kg a year. The accumulation of one kilo of fat corresponds to 7,700 kcal of energy.
Yoga & Pranayam:
1. Pranayam both Anulom, Pratilom and Kapaalbhati work wonders. As with Anulom, Pratilom better oxigenation of the tissues accelerates metabolic processes whereas Kapaalbhaati acts as mechanical way of exercise of the abdominal muscles. It also enhances digestive power.
2. Brisk walking for almost 45 minutes is an ideal exercise for reducing weight saving hypertension, diabetes and controlling cholesterol levels.
Weekly Cleansing: Weekly cleansing of the system by taking laxatives in the weekends. Ideal drug for this is Erend tail.
Ayurvedic Medicines: Navak guggulu, Kanchanar gugglu, shilajeet& chandraprabhavati are very effective ayurvedic medicines for the management of obesity, but should be taken under the strict supervision of a qualified ayurvedic physician.
It is an important part of the treatment. It helps the patient to fight out the stress caused by the condition as well as social naming.
It helps the patient to learn self-control and hence to regularize the daily activities.
1. Assistant Director
2. Research officer (Ay.)
National Institute of Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Research,
Moti Bagh Road,