Obese? Fat chance you have sex drive

  • P Srinivasan, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Dec 18, 2015 18:01 IST
Obesity puts people at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc, but doctors say another casualty of the excess flab is the desire for sex. (HT File Photo)

Having gained a lot of weight after her first child, Arti Yadav (name changed), 38, completely lost her libido. After dealing with the angst of having no desire for sex for almost a decade, she finally decided to get a bariatric (weight-loss) surgery at SMS Hospital, and just two years later delivered her second healthy child.

It is common knowledge that obesity puts people at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc, but doctors say another casualty of the excess flab is the desire for sex.

If a person’s bodyweight is at least 20% higher than it should be, he or she is considered obese. The risk of developing obesity-related disorders appears to grow substantially after a person’s body mass index (BMI) goes beyond 21 kg/m2.

Dr Ajay Sharma, assistant professor of gastrointestinal (GI) surgery at Sawai Man Singh Medical College and Hospital, says, “Obesity kills sex drive in both men and women. Some of my women patients tell me they lost (the desire) due to their weight and want to get back in shape to become sexually active.”

Indian women in particular have a tendency to gain weight after childbirth, the doctor adds.

Most women who come to the hospital for weight-loss surgeries are 35 years or above. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to opt to go under the knife to shed extra weight. “80% of our patients are women, only 20% are men,” Dr Sharma says.

Though few women will admit to diminished libido as the prime reason for opting for the surgery, several studies abroad have proved beyond doubt that bariatric surgery improves the desire for sex.

“Obesity also leads to depression,” says Dr Rahul Saini, a clinical psychologist. “Obese people avoid attending public events and prefer to stay indoors - and are lonely. Loneliness leads them to alcoholism and smoking. It is a vicious cycle as it becomes a lethal combination of obesity and smoking - a virtual killer.”

VLCC founder Vandana Luthra, who started the Anti-Obesity Day initiative in 2001 to create awareness about obesity, says sitting for long hours is the new smoking. “While all of us are concerned about our health, constantly looking out for alternatives to help us stay fit - like eating healthy or working out - we ignore what is the most basic (problem): the time we spend sitting down,” she says.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called obesity one of the most common yet most neglected public health problem in both developed and developing countries. According to its World Health Statistics Report 2012, one in six adults globally is obese and nearly 2.8 million individuals die each year due to overweight or obesity-related illnesses.

Obese individuals have a higher rate of mortality and morbidity compared to non-obese individuals. Due to this increased risk, obesity is only now being recognised as a disease in itself. Additionally, obesity is strongly associated with other metabolic disorders, including diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular diseases and even some cancers.

Stand up to stay fit

People who sit for six-seven hours every day are at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and shorter life spans as well as becoming overweight, even if they exercise, according to studies. A report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in January 2015 finds that long hours of sitting increases an individual’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. This risk can be cut down by standing for at least one-fourth of the day, observes a research by the American Cancer Society in collaboration with the Cooper Institute, the University of Texas and the University of Georgia.

A knowledge paper “Obesity in the Indian context” by VLCC reveals that reducing sitting time and standing for an hour can help burn approximately 50 extra kilocalories. So, by standing for two hours a day for a year, one can lose more than 25,000 calories (that is equivalent of running at least six marathons), or nearly three kgs.

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