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Physical exercise along with a proper diet can help maintain a healthy weight

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Group of young women exercising with weights while sitting on fitness ball in health club. Horizontal shot.

A recent study has revealed that India has the third-highest number of obese and overweight people after US and China.

Around 20% of the adult Indian population is overweight or obese and studies predict that India will be the global diabetes capital by 2050 if the abdominal and lower limb obesity and metabolic syndrome are not arrested.

Being overweight or obese has also been tied to a greater risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. They also run a higher risk of being diagnosed with osteoarthritis and lower back pain. Obese women are also at peril for multiple cancers, including breast cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, and perhaps ovarian cancer.

Dr Veena Aggarwal, Head, R&D and Technical Services, VLCC Health Care Ltd, talked to Salome Phelamei of Zee Media Corp, on how eating better, being more physically active can help a person avoid being overweight and to stay healthy.

How does obesity affect a person’s health?

Obesity is a lifestyle-related disease. It is in fact, high on the World Health Organization’s list of non-communicable diseases (NCD) today and has been declared a global health threat. Over 63 per cent of all deaths worldwide are due to NCDs and correspond to an emerging global health threat, apart from a staggering socio-economic burden – it is estimated that over the next 15-20 years, NCDs will cost more than USD 30 trillion.

Obesity leads to serious chronic health conditions and disability. It is closely linked with a large number of health disorders, including heart disease, stroke, type-II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and even certain types of cancers.

What is a healthy weight?

The definition of health is changing in the new world where people are conscious of their social image. Increased weight is now being associated with body image perception, performance, social acceptability and a personal parameter of happiness.

One often equates body weight with being healthy. At VLCC, we think differently. Being thin and of normal weight doesn’t necessarily mean one is healthy.

Even a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) which is the ratio between weight and height, is no longer an accurate indicator of ‘health’, as is usually thought. It is our experience, and indeed that has also been validated by research in other parts of the world that one can actually be of normal weight but be unhealthy without realizing it, which is why frequent check-ups are important.

What is Body Mass Index (BMI)? How accurate is it?

Internationally, BMI over 25 kg/m2 is considered overweight. Due to genetic tendency of Indians towards abdominal obesity and its associated risk of related lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease, in India, a BMI of over 23 kg/m2 is considered overweight.

BMI has served as a proxy for obesity for many years but a concern remains that it measures the degree of excessive body weight rather than excessive body fat. It fails to identify differences in body composition and body fat distribution.

BMI calculations categorize even big-boned or muscular individuals as obese. Bone and muscle are denser than fat, making people with denser bones and more muscles weigh more. An athlete with high bone density and developed muscles may have a high body mass index but still not be overweight or obese and vice versa. BMI also does not account for body frame size; a person may have a small frame and be carrying more fat than optimal, but the BMI reflects that as normal. Conversely, a large framed individual may be quite healthy with a fairly low body fat percentage, but be classified as overweight by BMI.

Which is the best way to lose weight – physical activity or dietary plan?

A healthy weight can be achieved with the right balance of dietary intake and physical activity. This has to be suited to your body type. I would recommend visiting a qualified nutritionist or weight management expert to give you a plan suited to your needs for sustained benefit.

Suggest some diet tips for weight loss.

I have always felt that unmonitored generic diets are not necessarily healthy options for all.

With recent advances in science that have shown that DNA dictates our individual response to the kind of food we consume and the exercise that we do, it becomes all the more evident that a one-size-fits-all option is not a guaranteed solution. Thus, following the DNA-based Weight Loss Program along with eating well and exercising regularly will help a person lose weight with no negative effect on the body.

How much physical activity does one need to lose belly fat? Is there really a secret to losing belly fat?

Physical exercise along with a proper diet under expert advice is needed to lose belly fat. Apart from that a person needs to also take care of timely meals and proper sleep.

Human body also has a unique set of inherited chemical make-up known as DNA that affects how our body looks and functions. These inherited genes also influence a person’s chances of weight gain and often, lead them to becoming obese. This is due to the various roles played by genes in energy homeostasis, with a tendency of fat storage and absorption, body’s response to physical activity etc.

Every human being has a unique genetic constitution and variation/mutations, because of which a particular diet or physical activity may not help them lose weight! For instance, a general recommendation suggesting aerobic exercise in combination with a certain diet to facilitate weight loss, may not work.

The constituent genes of your DNA decide exactly what type of physical activity suits you the best.

What about weight loss pills or supplements? Are they safe and effective as well?

VLCC does not endorse such a view. We promote a healthy and positive body image and don’t support weight loss pills or supplements. Living a balanced and healthy lifestyle is essentially a matter of discipline and choice which should be achieved with healthy diet along with proper exercise under the right guidance.

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