Dr. Sun Kim, assistant professor of Medicine - Endocrinology, Gerontology, & Metabolism at Stanford School of Medicine, talked recently with BeWell about the surge in obesity levels in the U.S., and how it’s high time we focus on reversing that trend.
What has changed?
In 1990, no state in America had obesity prevalence greater than 15%. Today, one in three Americans are obese. Every country in the world has seen an increase in obesity, but the United States tops the list.
Why does obesity matter?
Obesity greatly increases the risk for medical problems such as diabetes. We have seen diabetes rates more than double, from 3% to 7 % of our population, from 1990 to the present. The direct correlation between diabetes and obesity has spawned the term “diabesity”.
How can someone distinguish between being overweight and being obese?
Medically, the body mass index (BMI) is used to determine overweight or obese status. Individuals with a BMI of 25.0-29.9 kg/m2 are considered overweight, and those with a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 are considered obese. These numbers are only one gauge of health. The impact of weight on health varies from individual to individual.
How do we address the issue of obesity without adding to the existing stigma?
Again, weight is only one indicator of health. Excess weight is associated with increase in insulin resistance, which is associated with disease risks. However, some obese people can be insulin sensitive, and thus not necessarily unhealthy, and thin people can be insulin resistant. In addition to weight, our genes and level of physical activity also impact health.
Is it necessary to lose all the extra weight?
Women and men can gain 1-2 pounds a year in adulthood. Over a lifetime, the weight can add up and affect health. It is important to keep track of weight regularly. Also, when setting weight loss goals, it is important to understand that a weight loss goal of 5-10% can have a significant positive impact on health.
Is there math behind sensible weight loss?
1 pound = 3,500 kcal
Reduce your daily intake by 500 kcal/day, and lose roughly 1 pound per week.
Any final thoughts?
It is too easy to gain weight in today’s society. Therefore, you have to be proactive to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes portion control and regular exercise.
Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Dorothy Ryan