Obesity may have significant health, social and economic impacts and is closely related to lack of exercise and to diet. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of suffering from a range of conditions, including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, knee and hip problems and sleep apnoea. In 2008, the total annual cost of obesity in Australia, including health system costs, productivity declines and carers’ costs, was estimated at around $58 billion (Access Economics 2008).
The proportion of adults (aged 18 years or over) classified as obese or overweight has increased from 56% in 1995 to 61% in 2007-08. For men, the increase was from 64% to 68% in 2007-08, while for women, the proportion rose from 49% to 55%.
Western anti-obesity drugs have been limited due to side-effects including mood changes, suicidal thoughts, and gastrointestinal or cardiovascular complications. The effectiveness and safety of traditional Chinese medicine including Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) and acupuncture provide an alternative established therapy for this medical challenge.
Other new research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for weight loss notes that the body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference to hip ratio (WHR) are used to determine the norms for weight. BMI is the person’s mass in kilograms divided by the square of the individual’s height in metres. A BMI above 30 is considered obese and below 18.5 is underweight. Normal weight is approximately 18.5 – 24.9 BMI. WHR is used to determine visceral adiposity versus subcutaneous fat distribution. Excess visceral fat is considered a more serious health risk.
According to the research, biomedical factors of obesity include: excess food intake, lack of adequate exercise, genetics, depression and low self-esteem. New fat cells are created (hyperplastic obesity) during childhood whereas adult onset obesity merely expands existing fat cells (hypertrophic obesity). Diet and exercise reduce fat cell size but cannot reduce the number of fat cells present in the body. Therefore, those with childhood onset obesity can have up to 5 times the number of fat cells as someone with adult onset obesity.