Meditation & Health No 2 - Table of Contents


Obesity’s Impact on Health


         During the Tang Dynasty (618-917 AD), the standards of beauty were markedly different from the modern Western ideal. Plumpness in women was considered desirable. Famed Imperial Concubine Yang was full-figured, and her voluptuous beauty won infinite favor from the emperor. Such was her impact on society at the time that people craved plump daughters in the image of Yang. Fuller figures can certainly be beautiful, and there is a definite distinction between pleasant plumpness and unhealthy obesity. People who qualify as obese have levels of body fat far in excess of Concubine Yang, to the extent that their figures are usually distorted and physical health threatened,too.

         Compared to those of healthy weight, obese people are more susceptible to heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Most studies suggest that, because there is an overabundance of fatty tissue in obese people, more blood needs to be supplied and circulated. The heart must then work harder to meet the increased demand, and the extra burden can lead to left ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of the heart muscle) and high blood pressure. In addition, obesity can contribute to left atrial enlargement, faster heartbeat, and a higher risk of atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation-induced arrhythmia may lead to stroke and potentially even death if the patient doesn’t receive prompt medical attention.

          The American Cancer Association published study results confirming that the probabilities of having concurrent cancers increases significantly for people who are obese. For men, every 15 kg of extra weight leads to a 52% higher chance of having esophageal cancer, a 33% greater risk of having thyroid cancer, and a 24% higher chance of having cancer of the colon and kidney. For women, every 13 kg of weight increase contributes to a nearly 60% greater risk of developing uterine cancer and gallbladder cancer, while the risk of esophageal cancer and kidney cancer rises 51% and 34%, respectively.

         Obesity may also cause hormone disorders.  Obese men have lower levels of male hormones and higher levels of estrogens. Obese women have a higher incidence of menstrual disorders, as well as infertility. Obesity also likely leads to early-onset puberty – it’s been documented that overweight girls tend to reach puberty at a younger age.

         Indeed, childhood obesity is now commonplace, contributing to multiple health problems in the young. For example, scientific research indicates that obese children are susceptible to asthma. As a child’s BMI increases, the relative incidence of asthma also increases.

         Obesity not only triggers a variety of health problems, it also causes psychological issues, planting the seeds of low self-esteem and even depression. Because modern mainstream culture favors slimness as the standard of beauty, it is natural for overweight people to feel that they are not being accepted and celebrated. The feelings of inferiority often linked with being overweight can cause diminished social interaction and feelings of isolation and loneliness. In conjunction with resultant psychological conditions such as depression, a lack of blood supply to the brain caused by obesity may impair cognitive function.



Meditation & Health No 2 - Table of Contents