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World Anti-Obesity Day: 7 popular myths around obesity debunked

As the world marks another Anti-Obesity Day today (November 26), we spoke to weight-loss specialists, bariatric and metabolic surgeons from across the country about major obesity-related myths and not-so-known facts.

health and fitness Updated: May 01, 2017 17:50 IST
Sneha Bengani

One in five Indians is either overweight or obese.

According to a University of Washington study published in The Lancet last year, India, with its 41 million obese people, ranked third among countries with the highest number of overweight people. The US topped the said unenviable list with China following next.

As the world marks another World Anti-Obesity Day today (November 26), we spoke to weight-loss specialists, bariatric and metabolic surgeons from across the country about major obesity-related myths and not-so-known facts.

1. Myth: Obesity is just a cosmetic disease

Fact: It’s not. In fact, it is actually the root cause of several other diseases, says Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, founder of the Centre for Obesity and Digestive Surgery, Mumbai.

“It is the major cause of serious health problems such as heart attacks, cancer, infertility and co-morbidities like diabetes and sleep apnea.

“If we want to do away with these diseases, we must tackle obesity first. The sooner we realise that obesity is a serious disease and not just putting on a few more kilos, the better off we will be,” says Dr Lakdawala.

2. Myth: Obesity is a lifestyle disorder

Fact: According to Dr Jayashree Todkar, a senior bariatric surgeon working with Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, and Poona Hospital, obesity has now been classified as a disease with multifactorial etiology. “Since it’s a disease, obesity needs to be managed medically under supervision,” she says.

3. Myth: I can lose weight whenever I want to

Fact: Several people think that all it takes is willpower and a lot of exercise to lose weight. But obese people know it is not as easy to shed those extra kilos. “Once you are more than 25 kilos of your ideal weight, it is challenging to reduce the excess as the set point of body cannot be altered by only diet and exercise,” says Dr Nandakishore Dukkipatti, managing director of LivLife Hospitals, a Bangalore-based centre for bariatric and metabolic surgeries.

“Expert opinion and medical treatment need to be sought in such conditions. Diet and exercise will provide better outcomes as an adjuvant therapy only after medical treatment,” he says.

4. Myth: Obesity is a disease of the urban rich

Fact: According to Dr Lakdawala, 3% of India’s slum population suffers from obesity. “Obesity is a big cause of malnutrition. Issues such as iron deficiency and vitamin D3 deficiency can happen only because of obesity,” he says.

5. Myth: Fat children lose weight as they grow

Fact: About 80% of obese kids grow up to become obese adults, says Dr Pradeep Chowbey, chairman of Max Institute of Minimal Access, Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Delhi. “Such kids are more likely to develop long-term diseases such as diabetes and hypertension in their early years,” he says.

Dr Chowbey advises kids to maintain a healthy lifestyle right from the beginning to avoid childhood obesity and serious health complications later in life.

6. Myth: Infertility causes obesity

Fact: It’s the other way round, says Dr Chowbey. “One of the most common causes of primary infertility in young women is obesity,” he says.

7. Myth: Obesity is caused because of low thyroid. So taking thyroid medicines will treat it.

Fact: “Not everyone suffers from obesity because of hypothyroidism. Also, only hypothyroidism cannot be labeled as the sole cause of obesity in any individual,” says Dr Todkar.

She warns that taking unsupervised and inadvertent thyroid supplements may lead to detrimental health effects. “Several hormonal issues are responsible for causing obesity. Thyroid alone should not be held responsible,” she adds.

The author tweets @sneha_bengani

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