News : what it is and how it is related to being overweight and obsessed


News : what it is and how it is related to being overweight and obsessed

energy balance and overweight obesity

The energy balance it is one of the key factors in maintaining good health. This indicator indicates the relationship between the energy that we incorporate into the body through the food and beverages that we consume and the energy that the body expends in its vital functions.

Its control is very important, to the point that the Spanish Society of Internal Medicine (SEMI) has an active awareness campaign on the dangers of obesity, where he insists through short videos that being overweight is not an aesthetic issue, but a health issue.

In Spain, the prevalence of this pathology is around the 23% of the population. This means that a large group of citizens suffers from a metabolic, chronic and multifactorial disease that requires a directed and multidisciplinary action to reach the ideal weight, which is the one that will allow a better quality of life and a feeling of well-being to be achieved.

What is the energy balance

Human beings are heterotrophs, unlike plants, which are autotrophs. Autotrophic organisms obtain energy directly from the air and the sun, but heterotrophs have to go to food.

To be heterotrophic means to be nutritionally dependent on food, which are the sources that supply us with energy to be able to fulfill vital functions such as breathing, circulation or physical work, among others.

The energy balance is the relationship between that energy that is ingested in the form of calories and that that is expended as a consequence of their own vital activities. When a person reaches his energy balance, is able to maintain its weight and with it, whenever other factors occur, develop a good physical state of health.

However, it is important to note that this indicator varies depending on aspects such as age, the level of physical activity, gender or body composition. In the case of women, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and breastfeeding also play a role.

How does the body consume and expend energy?

The human body only receives energy through the intake of food and beverages, but the expenditure of calories does depend on several parameters. The most important is the basal metabolism, which is the amount necessary for the functioning of body processes. This item corresponds to the 60-70% of energy consumed. The remaining 30% is distributed in the digestion work, around 10%; and the physical activity complete the total with 20%.

Digestion is also known as thermic effect of food and it is the phenomenon that transforms these products into nutrients that can be assimilated by the body. Physical exercise is not only doing sports, but any activity counts, but there is no doubt that the higher the level of physical effort, the more energy will be consumed.

How is the energy balance calculated?

Each organism needs to consume food and beverages that are transformed into nutrients to reach the total energy consumed by the human body. If more calories are ingested than are expended, the body responds with weight gain. If this is maintained continuously until it becomes a habit, the result is the appearance of overweight and obesity and, by extension, increased risk of chronic diseases.

The energy balance is that balance between energy consumed and energy that is expended. In each person this indicator is different, since it depends on the factors previously mentioned, as the nutritionist Romina F. Díaz points out in her study “Food and energy balance”.

In this same study several formulas are indicated to establish the energy balance based on the total energy requirement, that is, the basal energy expenditure added to the digestion process and the level of physical activity.

One of the most used formulas to calculate total energy expenditure is to use as a basic indicator the Harris formula – Benedict, designed by the physiologist-nutritionists J. Arthur Harris and Francis G. Benedict and that has been revised several times.

This equation integrates height in centimeters, weight in kilograms and age in years, which provides the amount of calories needed to calculate basal metabolism.

MB Male = 66.5 + (13.75 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.75 x age in years)

MB Female = 65.5 x (9.46 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.68 x age in years)

From there, this result must be multiplied by a certain factor depending on the level of activity.

  • Little or no exercise -> Calories needed = BMR x 1.2
  • Light or light exercise (walking one to three days a week) -> Calories needed = BMR x 1,375
  • Intense exercise (playing sports six to seven times a week) -> Calories needed = BMR x 1,725
  • Very intense exercise (several training sessions per day) -> Calories required = BMR x 1.9

The Harris – Benedict formula is just one more to calculate the energy requirement that a person needs in their daily lives, but there are others. This has as its main drawback the fact that it greatly increases its margin of error in those who suffer from obesity.


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Regulation of energy balance

A priori, reaching a balance between the energy consumed and the energy expended would seem quite simple, since it would only be necessary to calculate the total calories to consume based on factors such as age, weight, height and activity level physics, among others.

However it is not always so. If you eat less and plan a more active lifestyle, you end up losing weight, so the theory goes. But the reality is that when we eat less food, we also provide the body with less energy, and with this you end up losing weight at the cost of reducing energy needs.

The energy balance is readjusted with a lower basal metabolism, which means that if you continue with this dynamic, the body can return to the initial stage, overweight. That happens with the so-called yo-yo diets.

In turn, the study “Regulation of Intake and energy balance: factors and mechanisms involved”Indicates that there is a complete relationship between the regulation of food consumption and energy balance. The endocrine, gastrointestinal and nervous systems enable feelings of satiety and hunger in the body.

All in all, a good energy balance it is reached when the amount of calories ingested are sufficient to satisfy the body’s energy demand, both at the basal level and associated with lifestyle, age and other conditions. This process is important because it largely explains the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the population, and how it can be prevented.


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