Obesity is both a descriptive term and a medical term. It describes a state of having more adipose tissue than the body requires, in particular for survival. The body’s ability to store fat is of course a homeostatic mechanism that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to ensure that when food was plentiful it wasn’t wasted – it was stored as fat so that the cells could use is as an energy substrate during times when food was scarce. The mechanism still exists but food is rarely scarce, particularly in the developed world.
Obesity is now an objective term and is used to signify a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30. This is entirely arbitrary and in effect pointless as the process of converting excess food to fat and storing it as such is a continuum and runs from the completely lean state all the way through to carrying so much adipose tissue that the individual is incapable of moving. From the perspective of survival, Homo sapiens probably have their best chance with a body fat percentage of about 10% – so anything in excess of this represents obesity.
Obesity has now been classified as a disease which is probably erroneous simply because, for reasons already discussed, it is a survival mechanism. Undoubtedly the body is compromised by being in the obese state and there are numerous mechanisms and processes in the body that function sub-optimally. Additionally, there are a whole host of diseases that are associated with obesity but whether obesity is the cause per se is very much open to debate. It is our hypothesis that in fact it is insulin resistance that is the underlying problem with most if not all of these diseases and insulin resistance is itself the mechanism behind obesity.
Nysteia contains a large number of presentations that explore the intricacies of obesity – in particular the science behind how it develops, how it affects us and importantly how to manage it.