Obesity has almost reached epidemic proportions in many countries all over the world and India is not far behind. What is really alarming is that the problem is not confined to adults alone, but extends to children as well. A survey conducted by Milann showed that of the 1000 children between the years 11 to 18 included in the study, 15% came under the obese category, with another 20% being classified as overweight. The classification was based on BMI, with those having a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 in the overweight category and a BMI of 30 and above as obese. Obesity was found to be very much more prevalent in the upper socio-economic group (nearly 80%) and practically all these children admitted to not having much exercise on a daily basis.
50% of these obese children had irregular periods. In addition to abnormal menstrual cycles, some girls may be troubled by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which often manifests with skin problems, notably acne and greasy skin and unwanted hair production (hirsutism). Incidence of hirsutism was found in 3 to 5% of the obese girls studied in the survey. Most young girls with PCOS find it difficult to understand why they have developed symptoms such as irregular and infrequent periods. The biochemical changes associated with PCOS include increased levels of testosterone and reduced levels of a hormone SHBG, which may result in an increased male pattern hair distribution particularly on the moustache and beard areas of the face, the chest, back and lower abdomen. In association with PCOS, there may be an increased level of insulin which encourages the body to lay down excessive amounts of fat tissue leading to obesity. This excess fat tissue aggravates the hormonal imbalance.
A diet designed to reduce weight may reverse this trend. A nutritionally balanced, high fiber diet which is low in fat and calories with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and pulses should not only bring about a reduction in weight but also have a beneficial effect for those suffering from acne and pimples. Suppression of ovarian hormone production, combined oral contraceptive pills and the use of drugs that increase insulin sensitivity are some of the medical treatments which have been found to be effective.
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