It’s no secret that obese people are at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Being overweight can result in various diseases, but it impacts more than just the heart. The impact is vast and can also affect an obese person's brain, skin, and even the immune system. We mention the horrible side effects of obesity in the Body Reboot book and we also discuss how a high fat, low carb diet can help people lose weight without feeling like they have to resort to unhealthy methods. The bottom line is the body is interconnected and everything is affected. Here are 5 lesser-known ways obesity can leave its mark on the body:
1. There’s a higher chance of getting cancer
ASMBS says if you’re overweight you have a higher chance of getting cancer. In case you thought you were at risk for just a few different kinds of cancer, you were wrong. Just take a look at this long list of cancers. Time to get healthy, stat!
Cancer affects more than half a million lives per year in the United States alone. Obesity is believed to cause up to 90,000 cancer deaths per year. As body mass index (BMI) increases, so does your risk of cancer and death from cancer. These cancers include:
Postmenopausal breast cancer
For people with severe obesity, the death rate increases for all types of cancer. The death rate is 52 percent higher for men and 62 percent higher for women.
In regards to women being more likely to get cancer more than men, the New England Journal of Medicine explains the study’s results from 2003:
The heaviest members of this cohort (those with a body-mass index [the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters] of at least 40) had death rates from all cancers combined that were 52 percent higher (for men) and 62 percent higher (for women) than the rates in men and women of normal weight. For men, the relative risk of death was 1.52 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.13 to 2.05); for women, the relative risk was 1.62 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.40 to 1.87). In both men and women, body-mass index was also significantly associated with higher rates of death due to cancer of the esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and kidney; the same was true for death due to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Significant trends of increasing risk with higher body-mass-index values were observed for death from cancers of the stomach and prostate in men and for death from cancers of the breast, uterus, cervix, and ovary in women. On the basis of associations observed in this study, we estimate that current patterns of overweight and obesity in the United States could account for 14 percent of all deaths from cancer in men and 20 percent of those in women.
Increased body weight was associated with increased death rates for all cancers combined and for cancers at multiple specific sites.
2. It may weaken how your immune system responds
If you’re wondering why you’re getting sick and not getting better, U.S. Health says that being overweight can weaken how your immune system responds. Basically, you’re more likely to get sick and it’ll be harder to get rid of the invaders.
Think about the immune system as a three-brigade army: The front-line system, also known as the innate immune system, first fights against invaders without knowing their specific identity. Next, the adaptive immune response makes antibodies to protect against future invaders. At the same time, the body develops memory cells to help recognize the same pathogen in the future. On all three levels, obese people’s systems are weaker, says Poland, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic, where he also directs the Vaccine Research Group. “That whole system is suppressed and broken in obese people,” he says. “It’s a very, very difficult problem.”
3. It can result in serious respiratory disorders
If you struggle with allergies or asthma it could be from obesity, as ASMBS discusses.
People with obesity have reduced lung capacity. These people are at higher risk for respiratory infections. They are more likely to have asthma and other respiratory disorders. Asthma has been shown to be three to four times more common among people with obesity.
More than half of those affected by obesity (around 50-60 percent) have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) In cases of severe obesity, this figure is around 90 percent7). OSA is a very serious breathing disorder. OSA occurs when excess fat in the neck, throat, and tongue block air passageways during sleep. This blockage causes apnea, which means a person stops breathing for a time. A person with OSA may have hundreds of apnea episodes each night. Apnea episodes reduce the amount of oxygen in a person’s blood.
OSA may lead to high blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension, and heart failure. OSA can cause sudden cardiac death and stroke. Because apnea episodes interrupt the normal sleep cycle, you may not reach restful sleep. This can lead to fatigue and drowsiness. If untreated, this drowsiness may raise your risk of motor vehicle accidents.
A study done by JAMA Internal Medicine in 199 found that obese people were more likely to have asthma. Check out the details they laid out in their study:
Results: From 1991 to 1995, we identified 1596 incident cases of asthma. In a multivariate model controlling for 9 potential confounding factors (including age, race, smoking, physical activity, and energy intake), the relative risks of asthma for 6 increasing categories of BMI in 1991 were 0.9, 1.0 (reference), 1.1, 1.6, 1.7, and 2.7 (P for trend <.001). Stronger associations were found using stricter definitions for asthma, and the finding was present in a variety of subgroups. In analyses controlling for the same variables, as well as BMI at age 18, women who gained weight after age 18 were at significantly increased risk of developing asthma during the 4-year follow-up period (P for trend <.001).
Conclusions: The BMI has a strong, independent, and positive association with risk of adult-onset asthma. The increasing prevalence of obesity in developed nations may help explain concomitant increases in asthma prevalence.
ASTHMA AFFECTS at least 5% of the US population and its prevalence continues to rise.1 In 1990, the management of asthma already accounted for more than $6 billion in medical expenditures.2 Despite the enormity of the problem, there are relatively few large-scale epidemiological studies on the etiology of asthma, particularly adult-onset asthma. In recent years, investigators have begun to define genetic3 and environmental4 risk factors in the hope that timely interventions might prevent individuals from developing asthma.
The prevalence of obesity in the United States has increased steadily during the past 30 years.5 In recent years, even lesser degrees of overweight have been linked to a variety of health problems, including premature mortality.6 Although patients with poorly controlled asthma might gain weight as a result of activity limitations, the relationship between obesity and risk of asthma is not known. We examined the relation of body mass index (BMI), which is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters, and weight change to risk of adult-onset asthma during 4 years of follow-up in more than 85,000 women.
4. Autoimmune disorders are more likely to develop
In addition to asthma, getting cancer, and developing other health conditions, U.S. Health also reveals that you’re more likely to get autoimmune disorders.
Poland calls it the “Goldilocks dilemma” – the idea that the immune system is supposed to maintain a balance between responding “vigorously” to external threats like infection-causing pathogens and giving its own body’s cells a free pass. But in obese people, Poland says, “that balance is turned upside down.” As a result, obese people are more susceptible to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, he says. Other research also implicates obesity in the development of Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
5. You’re more likely to get the flu and the flu shot isn’t as effective
Earlier we mentioned this, but U.S. Health specifically says that you’re not only more likely to get the flu but if you think a flu shot will take care of that, you’re wrong. It turns out that a flu shot may be ineffective if you need to lose a lot of weight.
Just how much obesity affects the immune system became clear during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. “Obesity turned out to be a very clear-cut risk factor for severe infection in both children and adults, and it was a clear-cut risk factor for an increased risk of death,” Poland explained to a group of journalists at an obesity fellowship program in February. Specifically, adults with body mass indexes over 30 were 3.1 times more likely to die from the infection than people of lower weights, while adults with body mass indexes over 40 were 7.6 times more likely to die.
If we know obesity makes you more prone to infections like the flu, can’t we just double-down on efforts to get that population vaccinated? Fat chance. As it turns out, vaccines are generally less effective among people with obesity for the same reason they’re more susceptible to diseases in the first place: Their bodies are in a constant state of “immunodeficiency,” Poland explains. In some ways, obese people’s immune systems, he’s found, actually look like those of older adults. “That shocked us,” he says, “and may be among the reasons they can’t respond to these vaccines.”
As you just found out, being obese results in a lot more health conditions than you originally might have thought. Luckily there actions you can take to lose weight and reduce your chances of dealing with serious health problems down the road. Check out the Body Reboot book to learn more about the keto diet. For a free copy, help us cover shipping and visit this page to get your free copy today!
Sources: U.S. Health, ASMBS, “Prospective study of body mass index, weight change, and risk of adult-onset asthma in women.” Archives of Internal Medicine 1999, “Overweight, obesity, and mortality from cancer in a prospectively studied cohort of US adults.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2003
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