Chronic disease creates a heavy emotional and financial burden to citizens of the EU. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that chronic disease prematurely takes the lives of 550,000 working age people across the EU each year. On top of that, these deaths cost the economies of EU countries EUR 115 billion, not including effects on productivity and lower employment.1
Chronic diseases include diseases of the cardiovascular system (cardiovascular & cerebrovascular disease, stroke), cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and diabetes mellitus. These diseases make up 6 of the 8 top causes of death annually.2
While multiple factors play a role in the development of chronic disease, obesity is a primary risk factor. Many physiological consequences of obesity, such as hypertension, chronic inflammation, dyslipidemia, and hyperglycemia, promote chronic disease. Obese and metabolically unhealthy people are 2.5x more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than lean, metabolically healthy individuals.3
Furthermore obesity plays a role in numerous forms of cancer. Compared to normal weight individuals, obese people have a doubling of risk for endometrial, kidney, liver, pancreatic, gastric, and colorectal cancer. It also increases the risk of many other cancers to a smaller degree.4
Recently, the European Commission classified obesity as a chronic disease.5 By classifying obesity as a chronic disease, this opens up a means of reducing all chronic disease by addressing a common thread.
Ultimately, nutrition is probably the most important factor for treating obesity. We gain weight when our energy intake exceeds our energy expenditure over a long period of time. This is known as the energy balance model.
Even a seemingly miniscule daily calorie excess drives large increases in weight over a year. For example, consuming just 50 extra calories per day leads to an annual gain of 2.26 kilos. While energy balance is a simple fix conceptually, most people have a difficult time successfully implementing it.
A personalised medicine approach to nutrition is an ideal way to address obesity. This takes into account that some diets work well for some people but not others. Some do well counting calories, while others do better counting carbohydrates. Other dietary factors such as protein and fiber reduce cravings by increasing fullness.
Even factors not related to diet quality are useful. For example, many people find time-restricted eating, alternate day fasting, or intermittent fasting effective for maintaining a healthy weight. Functional Medicine for obesity takes into account all variables related to diet that affect behaviors that impact obesity. This includes appetite, physical activity, mental well-being, and sleep.
Long term adherence is crucial to successfully treat obesity with diet. It’s important to understand there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone. The goal for personalised nutrition to treat obesity should be to identify the qualitative, quantitative, and temporal aspects of food and biochemistry that create behaviors that normalise weight. This is where Functional Medicine might offer a better solution to patients as the model takes into account all circumstances and creates an intervention that is adapted to each person.
Interested in learning more about Nordic Clinic’s approach to obesity? You find more information about our research based weight loss program for lasting results here.
This article was originally published as a guest editor post at foodpharmacy.se
By: Graeme Jones, clinical physiologist and CEO at Nordic Clinic Stockholm.
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