A recent article in The Daily Mail (Tuesday 27th April) published images taken by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRIRI) scanner and showed the ‘obesity effect’ of extra pounds on people’s organs, bones and muscles. The images – of a woman weighing just over 17.5st and one weighing just under 8.5st – show that the obese woman has fat wrapped around her organs and an enlarged heart, which could have dire consequences on her health.
The article added that, among the consequences of carrying excess fat, are greater risks of:
Headaches and snoring. Excess fat around your head and neck, especially at the back, causes pressure on the nerves and may contribute to headaches and neck pains. Carrying fat around the neck compresses the airways and leads to snoring during sleep, or even sleep apnoea – where tissues in the upper airways come too close to each other, temporarily blocking breathing.
Memory difficulties, low energy, shortness of breath, leg swelling and high blood pressure. Longer term, it can contribute to stroke, hypertension and even sudden-death syndrome.
Breathlessness. Fat in the abdomen pushes up into the lungs, causing breathlessness. This can lead to lack of energy, impaired immune system and even high blood pressure.
Arthritis and varicose veins. Being obese means the hip joints have to carry extra weight, so they wear out sooner, possibly causing arthritis. Varicose veins occur because the fat makes it more difficult for blood to pump back up the body and, so, blood valves may be damaged.
Heart problems. Excess fat can lead to an enlarged heart, leading to shortness of breath and fatigue. Visceral fat – fat around the body’s organs – has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. In particular, fat around the heart – pericardial fat – is also linked to hardening of the arteries.
Feet problems. Carrying at least twice the weight they are meant to means feet will get sore.
Knee and ankle problems. Obesity is the single biggest cause of osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints such as knees and ankles. The additional pressure caused by excess weight wears away cartilage – the natural layer of shock absorber in our joints – leaving bone to grind against bone.
Other things. Visceral fat constantly secretes chemicals and hormones, such as leptin and restitin, which are associated with changes in the metabolism and linked to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. These hormones can disrupt the endocrine system and lead to hormone imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition which affects women, causing excess hair, weight gain and infertility.
Meanwhile, when fat reaches the digestive system it breaks down in the liver. This can lead to inflammation, the formation of scar tissue and eventually cirrhosis. There is also a risk of cardiovascular disease.
Research also suggests that visceral fat affects mood by increasing production of the stress hormone cortisol and reducing levels of feelgood endorphins. Visceral fat also causes inflammation in the arteries and around the colon. In men, being obese increases the risk of colon cancer by some 50 per cent, according to Cancer Research UK.
Obesity specialist and the founder of the Howard’s Way very low calorie diet (VLCD), Penelope Howard, commented: “Crushed lungs, strained joints and a swollen heart – the extraordinary scans published in The Daily Mail reveal what being fat does to the inner you. The downside of being obese is much more than ‘not looking good’.”
Since 1997, Howard’s Way has been doing something practical to stem the rising tide of obesity among adults in the UK – helping more than 2,000 people to lose more then three stones in weight each. It recently invested in its fourth Weight Loss Centre, which is capable of helping a further 65 patients a year lose several stones in weight through the ‘total food replacement’ (TFR) treatment of the Howard’s Way VLCD programme.
Moreover, it has expanded its ‘distance dieter’ operations, enabling adults from all over the UK to benefit from a programme that sees its patients lose at least three stones in weight in an initial 12 week period.
“With obesity in the UK projected to grow by some 10% every decade for the foreseeable future, our aim is to teach our patients about nutritional values of food; how to see past misleading advertising on food; how their bodies use different foods, and which foods – such as white sugar – are likely to have an addictive quality about them,” said Penelope. “Secondly, we want to keep them nutritionally supported and healthy while they shed their excess weight at the rate of 14 to 21 pounds every four weeks while they are on the programme.”