Obesity, defined as excessive fat accumulation that may impair health, has seen its prevalence increase to unprecedented levels globally, being projected to continue to rise. Obesity meets all accepted criteria of a medical disease, including a known etiology, recognized signs and symptoms, and a range of structural and functional changes that culminate in pathological consequences.
The major concern about the alarming increase of obesity numbers relates to its association with risk to develop cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, some cancers and highly disabling musculoskeletal disorders, which are among the leading causes of death and morbidity in the world. In fact, currently, in most countries of the world, overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths than underweight. This is particularly important when we acknowledge that obesity is becoming a problem in increasingly early ages and that childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood.
Before this scenario, it is not surprising that obesity, being a preventable disease, has become a major priority for global health policies. Decreasing obesity incidence requires the effort of different social and health care structures and a constant update on the scientific knowledge about its determinants, prevention and management strategies as well as consequences.
Given the multifactorial nature of obesity etiology, dealing with obesity requires a similar multitude of approaches. Understanding Obesity: From its Causes to impact on Life presents an overview of the main contributing factors to obesity: from social and behavioral determinants throughout the life course, influences from before we are born to what we eat (not only nutrients and non-nutrient compounds with impact on body weight but also food contaminants), which bacteria colonize our gut, and how and how much we spend energy we accumulate. The dynamic role of the adipose tissue during obesity development, the pressure put on to its remodeling and differences in obesity phenotypes regarding association with pathological outcomes are also presented as well as the latest advances made on finding biological markers of adipose tissue dysfunction. The latest treatment options for obesity from medical, pharmacological and surgical areas are reviewed, also recognizing educational, social and psychological issues as central when handling obesity. Associations with chronic and disabling diseases, like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases that place heavy tolls on human societies, are debated, highlighting how obesity predisposes to their development and how obesity treatments might improve their outcome. The bidirectional relationship of stress with obesity is discussed, as are the changes in adipose tissue accretion along the aging process, also outlining the obesity paradox.
Perhaps obesity prevention should have been the main focus of this book, as some advocate that obesity is a chronic disease, treatment options have only limited success, and obesity predisposition may be determined as far as three generations back. But while the necessary changes in society, mentalities and attitudes are in delay, we expect health researchers, practitioners, as well as decision-makers, may find this book a useful tool gathering the latest updates on obesity research, with involvement of experts from different backgrounds, which contribute with findings from their own research on obesity but also with personal views onto how the complex nature of the obesity problem should be dealt with.
About the Editor:
Rosário Monteiro is a family physician in the Northern Health Administration of Portugal, an Invited Assistant Professor at the Department of Biomedicine, Unit of Biochemistry of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto and a Researcher at the Metabolism, Nutrition and Endocrinology group from Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde (i3S), Universidade do Porto. Monteiro completed her Ph.D. in 2007 while working on aromatase modulation by bioactive food components in relationship to cancer and adipose tissue biology. She completed her post-doctoral research at the Faculty of Medicine and INSERM (U858, Toulousse, France), working on adipose tissue biology, followed by her Masters in Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine. In 2019 she completed her habilitation degree in Metabolism with a lecture and pedagogical work dedicated to the improvement of obesity teaching in Medical Faculties and of obesity management by all medical doctors. She has 15 book chapters and 60 publications in indexed journals, along with more than 150 scientific presentations and 19 awards for scientific merit to her credit.
Keywords: Obesity, adipose tissue, chronic disease, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, overweight, treatment options for obesity