It's no secret that obesity is a worrying concern in America, and increasingly, the rest of the world. At least 2 in every 3 Americans are overweight and the number of obese children is growing rapidly. There's little dispute on the negative consequences of gaining too much weight. Many people however get fixated with the numbers such as BMI, weight and blood sugar levels when there's much more.
Obesity has a direct link to a number of health risks. In fact, obesity and the sedentary lifestyle are thought to cause a thousand deaths each in the US. Whereas obesity affects men and women almost equally, there are certain burdens that hit men particularly hard.
1. Testosterone Deficiency
Testosterone is the primary male hormone. It's responsible for the large muscles, strong bones, beard and deep voice that characterize the male gender. It is also the trigger for the libido, sperm production and the development of male reproductive organs.
Testosterone levels surge during puberty and reach their peak in the early years of adulthood. After a number of years of stability, it begins its drift downward at the start of middle age. The decline is at just 1% each year so many older men retain a near normal testosterone level.
Obesity accelerates the reduction of testosterone levels. Waist circumference is an especially strong predictor of deficiency. A 4-inch increase in waist circumference increases a man's testosterone deficiency risk by 75%.
2. Erectile Dysfunction
Men who experience erectile dysfunction (ED) are quick to blame testosterone deficiency. On the contrary, hormonal disorders are responsible for just 3% of ED incidents. Even at relatively normal testosterone levels, obese men are at higher risk of ED than the general male population.
Several studies have shown a correlation between bigger waist sizes and ED. Of course, establishing a correlation is one thing while identifying ways to better erectile function is entirely another. Unsurprisingly though, research has demonstrated that the reverse is also true. That is, weight loss has led to improved performance in the bedroom.
In one study, 30 percent of overweight men managed to correct their ED without medication by simply losing weight (for an insightful primer on ED, see PriceProPharmacy).
3. Kidney Stones
Erectile dysfunction can be a cause of psychological pain and deep embarrassment for men and their partners. Kidney stones aren't as personal or as crippling to a man's self-esteem but they certainly cause far more physical pain. Kidney stones affect men twice as much as women. Obesity increases the risk even further.
A study of nearly 50,000 men established that large waists and high BMIs both increased the risk of kidney stones by as much as 44%. The study didn't explore the reasons for this link but later research hinted at overweight individuals dumping a higher than average amount of calcium in their urine which in turn sped up the formation of stones.
4. Prostate Cancer
Obesity raises prostate cancer risk in two ways. First, obesity depresses prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. Doctors often rely on PSA to detect prostate cancer early. By artificially lowering the PSA, obesity makes it harder for any cancer indicators to be picked up before it enters an advanced and harder to treat stage.
Second, the extra body fat itself increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. One study by the American Cancer Society showed that being overweight raises prostate cancer risk by 8%, obesity increases risk by 20% while severe obesity grows risk by 34%. In addition, obesity increases the chances of the cancer spreading beyond the prostate, and makes it likely that relapse will occur after treatment.
5. Colorectal Cancer
A higher BMI is linked to a greater risk of rectal and colon cancers in both women and men. However, the increase in risk is higher among obese men than obese women. Men who are obese are roughly 30% more likely to get colorectal cancer than lean men.
One explanation has been that obesity increases the chances of developing the precancerous growths known as colorectal polyps. Elevated levels of the leptin (fat hormone) have been linked to polyp growth.
In today's world, obesity and being overweight is gradually becoming the norm. It's not normal though. Obesity has made arthritis, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes fairly common. That's already bad enough but obesity goes even further by exacerbating male maladies such as prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.
Shedding extra pounds is never easy but neither is it impossible. There's certainly no instant fix. There's however a slow, steady and tested path to weight loss. Adjust your eating habits, reduce your calorie intake and get into a regular exercise routine.