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Risk factors for becoming obese
Diagnosing obesity
Complications of obesity
Treating Obesity
Obesity Causes

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Treating Obesity

      Obesity causes serious health problems. Losing weight to improve overall health is different than losing weight to be "thin". Any weight loss, even small amounts, can help to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer, improve blood pressure, assist in controlling diabetes and improve the complications associated with sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.

Important in treating obesity is weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. All obese people should begin by aiming to reduce body weight by 10%. Once that goal is achieved and an individual can successfully maintain that weight loss, losing 1 or 2 further pounds a week becomes the goal. This is considered by most experts to be the safest way to lose weight in the long term and to sustain the weight loss.

In most situations, weight loss can be achieved through a combination of healthful diet, increased physical activity and behavior modifications. Prescription weight loss medications and surgery are options for those needing additional help. There is no one obesity cure. An effective obesity solution will always include a combination of diet, exercise, and in some cases, weight loss drugs or surgery.

1) A healthful diet

Consuming less calories per day will result in weight loss. How many calories an individual needs depends on a number of factors, including level of physical activity and age. A doctor or dietician can recommend how many calories an individual should consume to achieve their weight loss goals.

All experts agree that fad and crash diets don't work. Although they may lead to initial weight loss, the weight is almost never kept off in the long term and inadequate intake of vitamins and nutrients can lead to a host of other health problems. Fasting is ineffective, as the majority of calories lost are from water. It is bad for overall health to starve the body of the nutrients it requires for good health.

Certain low calorie liquid diets are occasionally prescribed to treat morbid obesity. These diets include approximately 800 calories per day - far less than the 2,000 calories per day ideal for most adults. This treatment is used for the short term management of severe obesity and is not recommended as a long term solution for obesity management.

Other liquid meal replacements are available that will also effectively cut calories. These are expensive and should be used only in consultation with a doctor.

Experts agree that the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to modify diet to include low fat, low calorie, nutrient rich foods.

2) Weight Loss Programs

There are several weight loss programs available today that seek to provide those whose schedules and cooking expertise require assistance. These programs can be very expensive. Some examples include Jenny Craig and Nutri-system. Weight Watchers and Overeaters Anonymous offer group approaches to weight loss including eating plans and group support.

3) Increased Physical Activity

One of the best treatments for obesity is through increased physical activity. Often, the importance of this aspect of weight loss is undervalued. Many people can achieve significant weight loss simply by increasing their physical activity. Used in conjunction with a healthful, low fat diet, significant weight loss can be achieved and can be maintained.

4) Behavior Modifications

Changing overall lifestyle is an essential component of long term weight loss. This represents more than simply increasing physical activity and eating better foods. What it means is changing how you think, act and feel. It's about changing the way you view food and exercise, valuing self motivation, setting goals and other positive lifestyle enhancements. Many consider this the first step to treat obesity.

5) Weight Loss Medications

Both prescription and non prescription medications are available for weight loss.

Prescription weight loss drugs are designed for those with a BMI over 30, or for those with a BMI over 27 and significant health problems. There are two main types of prescription weight loss medication.

a) Sibutramine (Meridia)

This drug works by altering brain chemistry so that the patient feels full more quickly. This drug should be used in conjunction with a healthful diet and exercise program. It's potential side effects include headaches, dry mouth, slight increases in blood pressure, insomnia and constipation.

b) Orlistat (Xenical)

This drugs works by inhibiting the absorption of fat into the intestines by blocking the action of the enzyme lipase in the digestive tract. Lipase acts by breaking down dietary fat to enable the body to absorb it. Orlistat can cut down the body's absorption of dietary fat by up to 30%. Side effects of this drug can include frequent and/or oily bowel movements, as unabsorbed fat is eliminated in the stool. Like Meridia, this drug should be used in conjunction with a diet and exercise plan.

Non prescription weight loss products come in many varieties. They claim to work by either suppressing appetite or raising metabolism. Most experts agree that these products contribute to successful weight loss very little, if at all. They are generally believed to be more harmful than helpful. They include:

a) Ephedrine (ma-huang) (exs. Metabolife, Metabolite, MetaboMax)
b) Chitosan
c) Hydroxycitric Acid
d) St. John's Wort
e) 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) (exs. Natural Balance, Solaray, Natrol)
f) Herbal laxatives and diuretics
g) Appetite suppressants (exs. Dexatrim, Acutrim)
h) Pyruvate
i) Caffeine

Experts agree that no individual should take prescription or non prescription weight loss medications without first consulting with a doctor.

j) Obesity Surgery

Surgery as a treatment for obesity is generally reserved for those people who are morbidly obese (BMI over 40) and have tried other methods of weight loss unsuccessfully. There are two general categories of weight loss surgery.

The first method uses staples to create a very small pouch at the top of the stomach where the esophagus meets the stomach. This small pouch holds only a few ounces of food, making an individual unable to eat large amounts of food without experiencing discomfort.

The second surgical method used for weight loss also creates a very small pouch, but also includes a bypass around the small intestine, which is responsible for most of the caloric absorption from foods. As a result, this surgery not only reduces the amount of food a person is capable of consuming, but also reduces the number of calories that the body can absorb.

The American Obesity Association offers excellent advice, information and resources for all those fighting obesity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health offers excellent articles and research on obesity and health issues. Use the search box to access obesity related information.

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