THIRTY percent of Filipinos are overweight and 48 percent prefer to eat the food of their choice rather than to be fit, according to the October 2015 Asia Health Index of life insurance company Sun Life Financial Asia.

The 2013 National Nutrition Survey reported that one out of three Filipino adults and adolescents were overweight, while eight out of 100 were obese.

Lifestyle obviously is a major factor.

Civil Law freshman Mia Bataller admitted to stress-eating.

“Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people that lose weight when they’re stressed. I gain weight [instead],” she said.

An entry in the Harvard Mental Health Letter in 2012 linked stress-eating with cortisol, a hormone that can increase motivation. When stress levels are high, cortisol can make a person eat more and have higher chances of obesity.

A nutritionist-dietitian at the UST Hospital, Maureen Sarmago, noted that the primary cause of obesity is energy imbalance in the body, where energy taken from food does not match energy spent doing work.

“Decreased physical activity also contributes to weight gain such as using of escalators instead of stairs and automation of most equipment. Parents nowadays have probably forgotten to immerse their children in outdoor games,” she said in an email.

With the standards of the World Health Organization, computing the body mass index (BMI) of an individual can determine obesity. People with a BMI equal or greater than 25 are overweight while those who have a BMI equal or greater than 30 are obese.

Different genes have been associated with obesity. Fat Mass and Obesity-Associated Protein (FTO) and the Melanocortin 4 Receptor (MC4R) are genes commonly in conjunction with BMI and are determinants for obesity, with the former playing hypothalamic expression which manages food intake without stimulating a feeling of being full, while the latter is responsible for body’s basal metabolic rate.

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Coupled with unbalanced diet, the FTO gene holds a risk of causing Type 2 Diabetes, which can cause heart disease, kidney failure and nerve damage.

According to a study conducted by the Catholic University of Korea in 2006, the number of Asian youth who have been diagnosed Type 2 diabetes increased compared to the previous years.

A study from Harvard showed that this occurrence is also prevalent in Metro Manila, and that about 333 million Asians will probably have the said disease by 2025.

Holiday binge

With the holidays approaching and a night filled with hamonado, queso de bola and lechon just around the corner, where do we draw the line between extra and healthy?

Nutrition and dietetics professor Diane Mendoza’s advice is to observe “portion” control during holidays to avoid overeating.

“The key is moderation,” she said. “You don’t have to deprive yourself, but rather eat smaller portions and avoid second servings.”

Like other health conditions, being able to avoid or treat obesity can help lessen the likelihood of more serious conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

Doctors usually recommend a proper diet and adapting a healthy lifestyle. Vegetables such as cabbage, celery and cucumber are known to reduce weight as antioxidants, and with their water content which can keep one hydrated and full at the same time.

However, morbid obesity cannot be treated by simple diet and physical activities. On certain instances, bariatric surgeries such as gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, adjustable gastric band, and biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch are considered.

Kurt Ong, a senior Pharmacy student, anticipated that the month-long Christmas break would be a challenge to him, as he was dared to maintain his health and body.

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