The human body needs energy to sustain its various functions and help the individual perform his/her desired actions. This energy comes from the food we consume. When we consume food, we are said to be taking energy or assimilating energy or ‘energy in’, and when we work, exercise, or undertake any physical activity, we are said to be dissipating energy or giving out energy or ‘energy out’.
Since the rates at which we dissipate and assimilate energy are not the same always, the body is capable of storing energy for future use. The energy stored is generally in the form of fat or white adipose tissue. When the rates of energy intake and energy expenditure are reasonably healthy, there is less energy stored, which is considered a healthy energy balance. However, when these rates are largely different, the body is said to achieve an energy imbalance.
How does Energy Imbalance affect us?
There are two types of Energy Balance.
A Negative Energy Balance indicates that more energy is being expended by the person through activity than energy consumed through food. A mild negative balance is healthy as it can lead to weight loss, which is a boon to overweight people. This is what inspires the concepts of dieting and fasting. However, if the negative energy balance becomes severe, it affects the body’s metabolism, hormone production, mental health, cognitive faculties, and overall physical development and growth. It can trigger eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. The person eventually becomes a smaller and unhealthier version of his/her past.
A Positive Energy Balance indicates that more energy is being consumed by the person as food than what is expended by him/her as activity. A mild positive balance is healthy as it helps in better hormone production, higher activity or metabolism levels and better mental, physical and cognitive health. This is a boon to thin people who are trying to gain a little weight or athletes, sportsmen and bodybuilders who are weight-training. However if the positive energy balance becomes severe, which comes from overeating or consuming an unhealthy diet, it can build up plaque in the arteries, increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increase the risk of insulin resistance, diabetes and various cancers. And above all, it can make the person obese or overweight which in turn triggers all the above conditions.
How Obesity affects various organs of the body
With obesity becoming a global epidemic, it’s important to create awareness on how the condition affects various parts of the body.
- Brain: Fat deposits accumulate in the arteries of the brain leading to blood clots and brain strokes.
- Airways and Lungs: Overweight people are more likely to develop breathing difficulties such as asthma and obstructive sleep apnoea where the airway collapses during sleep.
- Heart and arteries: Since the heart has to pump harder to sustain a heavier person, it naturally increases blood pressure which can trigger a heart attack or stroke. Also, fat deposits in the arteries can eventually lead to an angina, heart attack or cardiac arrest.
- Liver and Gall bladder: Overweight people are more prone to liver conditions such as cirrhosis and hepatitis as well as gall bladder stones.
- Kidneys and bladder: Obese people are more at risk from kidney failure and kidney cancer. They are also more prone to stress incontinence (leaking urine) or urge incontinence (frequent urination)
- Pancreas: Obese people are at severe risk of Type-2 diabetes and insulin resistance
- Digestive canal: Obese people are more likely to develop cancer of the upper stomach, colon and rectum.
- Hands and legs: There is higher incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrists of the obese compared to other people. Obese people are also more prone to osteoarthritis of the knee, rheumatoid arthritis in the joints, deep vein thrombosis in the legs and gout and Sever’s disease in the feet.
- Reproductive system: While obese men are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction, obese women are prone to irregular menstruation, cancer of the endometrial and pregnancy-related issues such as high BP, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
- Immune system: Obese people are more likely to develop infections and show delayed healing from wounds, burns and common ailments.
Achieving the right Energy Balance
From the above, it’s obvious that a severe negative or severe positive Energy Balance is disastrous to one’s health. It’s desirable to have a mild negative or mild positive Energy Balance depending on your priority at that point of time in life.
Achieving this balance is not a mystery and is instead the essence of all health management. This includes a healthy diet with the right mix of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, daily exercise, efficient stress management and a positive outlook to life.