Do You Know the Important Obesity Terms?

Health Writer

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. So it's a good time to get familiar with terms that you may or may not have heard, that impact how you recognize, treat, and understand the disease called obesity.   We can't "get ahead of the statistics" if we don't have a good grasp of the disease glossary.   Here are some key terms you should know, in alphabetical order:

Added sugars - Manufacturers process food ingredients and add sugars, syrups, and other caloric sweeteners to make the foods taste better. This term does not apply to sugars like fructose in fruit or lactose in milk, which are naturally occurring and accompanied by fiber in the case of fruit. Names for added sugars include brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, fructose (when not naturally occurring), sucrose, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), invert sugar, honey, agave, lactose (when not in milk or dairy products), maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, and turbinado sugar.

Body mass index (BMI) - BMI is a measurement that uses body weight relative to height. BMI uses a formula that offers a score commonly used to determine if a person is underweight, at a normal weight, overweight, or obese. For adults, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy (or "normal"). A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. BMI is also used in consideration of gastric bypass and lap band surgery. Serious weight lifters may not conform to the traditional BMI designations because of their muscle bulk. BMI is considered one tool useful for assessing "risk for disease."

Children develop and grow at different rates, so it may not be easy to tell if a child is overweight, based exclusively on BMI readings. So BMI charts for children uniquely compare their height and weight to other children of their same sex and age. Typically, children and teens at or above the 85th percentile are considered overweight. Kids and teens who are at or above the 95th percentile are considered obese. Some pediatricians do note that growth rates in children can result in a high BMI at certain milestones, until height growth results in an adjusted, "normalized" BMI reading.

Calorie balance - The relationship between the calories you get from your diet (foods and beverages), and those you burn through physical activity and body processes like breathing, digesting foods, and, in children, growing.   People gain weight when the calories consumed are higher than the calories expended.   Weight is maintained when the two variables are equal.

Carbohydrate - Carbohydrates provide significant sources of energy for your body. Your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into blood glucose (sugar). Your body then uses this sugar to make energy for cells, tissues, and organs. Your body will then store leftover or excess sugar in your liver and muscles for when it's needed. If there is more sugar than the body can use or store, the liver may then break the sugar down further and store it as body fat.  That is why research has clearly identified excess carbohydrate consumption, especially from sugars in soda and processed foods, as a major cause of obesity. You do not need to only eat fat to become fat

There are two kinds of carbohydrates: simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates include sugars like fructose in fruit or lactose in milk.   It also includes sugars that manufacturers added when foods are processed or prepared. Complex carbohydrates include sugars sourced from legumes like peas or beans, starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes), and whole grain breads and cereals. Many complex carbohydrates are also good sources of fiber.  Most consumers are eating too many processed carbohydrates with very high levels of added sugars.

Dietary sodium - Known mostly by the name salt, sodium is involved in helping nerves and muscles to work properly. Standard table salt is made up of sodium and chloride, and often contains iodine.   The kidneys are responsible for controlling how much sodium is in your blood at any given moment.   Your kidneys release sodium when it's needed and then flush out any excess.   A build-up of too much sodium may raise blood pressure. High blood pressure, also called the silent killer, is linked to serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Current guidelines recommend that you consume less than 2,300 mgs. of sodium daily, with a more recent guideline suggesting consumption at or below 1,500 mgs. daily.   Most processed foods contain too much sodium per serving.   Notoriously high-sodium foods include breads, canned foods, deli foods, and pizza.

**Energy expenditure -  **It's the amount of energy that you use, which is measured in calories. You use calories for all physical activities including breathing, digesting food, maintaining your posture, and even to propel blood in your circulatory system.   Many exercisers overestimate their energy expenditure and consume more calories than they used, resulting in weight gain.

Next up: More important terms

Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What's for Lunch?_   Author of  _Fat Families, Thin Families _  and  _The 4 Habits of Healthy Families _, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103.   Catch her guest appearances on Marie! on Hallmark and other local and national news and talk shows.  _

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