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Obesity: What Is It, Causes, Risks, And Tips

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Obesity is emerging as one of the biggest global health issues in recent times. One can define obesity as an excessive and abnormal increase in the amount of fat in the body.

This severe health crisis has engulfed a large population as around 30% of the male population – 1 in 3, are obese.

Similarly, around 27% of the female population (or 1 in 4) suffers from obesity. Global cases are increasing at an alarming rate, and it is nowhere near slowing down.

However, obesity must not be confused with the tendency to be overweight. Being overweight is different from being obese.

What is obesity?  What are the ways to deal with and prevent obesity? Here’s everything you need to know about obesity and its management.

obesity

What Is Obesity?

Although obesity involves an increase in body weight, being overweight does not always result in obesity.

Obesity is a chronic disorder[1] in which there is an abnormal, and excessive increase in the body weight and fat percentage which can lead to many health hazards.

But how to know if you are obese or not? Everybody has a certain fat percentage and body mass index (BMI).

For people of every height and age group, there is a prescribed weight index that signifies good health.

If a person’s BMI is more than 30, they can be called obese. However, the most common confusion is the difference between obesity and overweight.

Let us take a look at it.

How Is Obesity Different From Being Overweight?

There can be many differences[2] between being overweight and being obese.

Firstly, being overweight does not signify a disease but a condition where a person has more body weight than other people of the same age group, whereas obesity is a chronic disease.

Being overweight can be an early stage of becoming obese, but you could also be overweight due to muscle mass.

Secondly, overweight people have a BMI ranging between 25 and 29.9. A 30 BMI score marks obesity and an index of 40 refers to morbid obesity.

Thirdly, more than 2 billion people worldwide are overweight whereas around 1 billion people are suffering from obesity globally.

Causes Of Obesity

Obesity is becoming a common global phenomenon gradually because of its wide occurrence overall.

There can be many causes of obesity, which can trigger or sustain it for a longer period.

  1. Overeating Habits

    This[3] is one of the most common causes of obesity. The human body needs to maintain a balanced daily calorie intake to maintain healthy body weight.

    If this intake exceeds the demand of your body and age requirements for a long time, gaining weight is inevitable.

    Moreover, food items that are fried, processed, or contain high amounts of sugar have a very high amount of calories which also can be a reason for obesity.

    If you are consuming food cooked in any of the worst cooking oils, it could also harm your health.

  2. Genetics

    Some people face the issue[5] of genetic obesity, i.e. they tend to gain weight much faster than other people because they get certain genes from their parents in heredity.

    For example, one of the proposed genetic theories is that the body can have a genetic deficiency of a hormone known as Leptin which instructs the brain to reduce appetite when the amount of fat increases in the body. This induces an increase in body weight.

  3. Psychological Reasons

    Sometimes, a person’s mood and emotions also trigger overeating urges. Some people like to eat excessively upon being overwhelmed by emotions such as happiness, sadness, anxiety, trauma, etc.

    Research[5] shows psychological issues can induce overeating and lead to several eating disorders.

  4. Lack Of Physical Activities

    It is yet another important reason for suffering from obesity. People who suffer from obesity generally do not like to indulge in physical activities and exercises which leads[6] to more fat accumulation in their bodies.

    You need to make an exercise schedule. Only then you would be able to take the benefits of exercise.

  5. Slow Metabolism

    Metabolism can be defined as the chemical reactions in the body which convert food into energy.

    Research[7] shows that the faster the metabolism is, the less amount fat gets stored and accumulated in the body.

    Hence, it would help if you tried different natural ways to boost your metabolism.

    These could include high-intensity exercises, skipping, cardio workouts, and consuming low-calorie, high-protein foods.

  6. Other Diseases

    Obesity can also be triggered when a body is facing several diseases.

    Diseases such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome[8], Cushing’s Syndrome, insulin resistance, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Hypothyroidism, etc. results in obesity as a by-product[9].

    That’s because these conditions affect the hormonal balance in your body which results in a slower metabolism.

Risks Involved With Obesity

Risks Involved With Obesity

People usually associate obesity with low self-confidence and other psychological constraints. However, it is a much more severe issue involving many health risks.

  1. Decreased Efficiency Of Insulin

    Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. The primary function of this hormone is to transport glucose from the bloodstream to organs such as the liver, muscles, and other tissues.

    Obesity can lead[10] to a condition known as insulin resistance, in which the bodily cells, especially fat cells, become resistant to insulin.

    This would result in high blood sugar levels and lead
    to Type-2 diabetes.

  2. Heart Diseases

    Research[11] shows that obesity can lead to significant heart issues such as stroke, coronary diseases, hypertension, and even a heart attack.

    The body’s fat makes the heart work even harder to pump blood and can potentially lead to its failure. Moreover, obesity also induces higher levels of cholesterol in the blood.

  3. Cancer

    Obesity leads to several changes in the body, which might lead[12] to cancer in body parts such as the colon, uterine, breasts, kidney, pancreas, etc.

    That’s because excessive fat tissue leads to excessive production of proinflammatory molecules in the body which contributes to chronic inflammation.

  4. Liver Issues

    Liver issues like fatty liver are also common among the obese population.

    Prolonged overlooking of weight issues may jeopardize the health of your liver cells. This could ultimately lead to a lower functionality of the liver.

    Hence, you need to make sure that you work out at least three to four days a week. The more you sweat it out in the gym, the better it is for your liver.

  5. Osteoarthritis

    Another common issue faced by several obese people is Osteoarthritis. It is one of the most common types of arthritis. Its symptoms include joint pain and stiffness.

    This condition happens when the tissue at the end of bones wears down. The pain can often be intolerable and immobilizing.

Ten Top Tips

By far, it can be easily understood how dangerous obesity can be for the human body.

Some people are predisposed to it, while many other causes as mentioned above can also result in obesity.

Genetic obesity can be a bit tough to deal with. However, one can do many things to eliminate obesity and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Check Your BMI

    The first and the most important tip would be to check your BMI. Many people are in denial when it comes to their increased weight.

    As a result, they continue with their regular diet that may have junk food, high levels of fat, and a combination of alcohol.

    Hence, it is always recommended to keep your BMI in check.

  2. The Role Of A Balanced Diet

    Obesity mostly depends on the type of diet one consumes and its nutritional value.

    If your calorie intake exceeds your daily calorie requirements, you have a higher chance of gaining extra weight.

    Moreover, if your diet includes an excess amount of sweet, fried, and processed food items, the risks of obesity increase.

    The solution to this problem is to try and incorporate all the essential nutrients[13] into your diet and make it healthy.

    There should be a decent amount of Vitamins, Minerals, Fats, Carbohydrates, Fiber, etc.

    The calories should be more diversified and include fruits, vegetables, superfoods, etc. One must drink an adequate amount of water daily.

  3. Importance Of Physical Activities

    A fast metabolism is required to burn down calories. However, some people do not have an active lifestyle, and they have to put in extra effort to decrease the amount of fat in their bodies.

    Usually, a lack of physical exercise and inactivity can lead to obesity. Therefore, including activities such as walking, gymming, jogging, running, swimming, athletics, playing a sport, etc., in our daily lives is essential.

    Getting involved in household chores can also be a good activity. However, starting slowly with mild exercises is better before getting into a habit of at least 30 minutes of workout.

    If you cannot join the gym due to time issues, you should also start thinking about home workouts. Home workouts are time-saving and pretty convenient as well.

  4. Medical Support

    Apart from a proper diet and physical activities, several other options like diet pills have emerged. As a result, many people are also turning to these diet pills.

    However, we would recommend that one should combine regular exercise, a balanced diet, and these diet pills, and then they may try to obtain the best possible results for getting rid of obesity.

    On a cautionary note, one must always consult a medical professional or a nutritionist before trying on any such substances.

    Examples[14] could include –

    • Bupropion-naltrexone
    • Liraglutide
    • Orlistat
    • Phentermine-topiramate

      However, this should only be done in extreme cases when a diet and physical activities cannot do much.
      It can involve certain complications such as indigestion, fatty stool, ill effects on other organs such as lungs, intestines, heart, etc.

  5. Surgical Treatments

    Surgeries can also treat obesity. Surgical treatments involve[15] restricting the volume of the stomach so that the amount of food consumed decreases.

    It has been proven highly effective in treating morbid obesity and Type-2 diabetes but has several drawbacks.

    First, since the amount of food absorbed in the body is less than usual, it can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies.

    Research shows that it may also hamper the functioning of other organs in some cases.

    Some major weight-loss surgeries are,

    • Gastric By-Pass Surgery

      In this surgery, the surgeon attaches a small pouch near the person’s stomach and reduces its size.

      They further make a small cut in the small intestine and attach it to this pouch so that the food of this pouch gets bypassed.

    • Gastric Banding Surgery

      One can adjust a gastric band on the top of your stomach, which creates a small pouch at the top.

      It restricts the tendency of overeating in one go and slowly channelizes the food towards the other digestive process.

    • Gastric Sleeve Surgery

      In this surgery, a part of the stomach is removed.

      The rest of the part takes the form of a tubular structure that is connected to the small intestine.

      It cannot hold a large amount of food, substantially reducing appetite.

  6. Herbs To Improve Metabolism

    One could also improve the control over their hunger using natural herbs. You could use herbs like psyllium to enhance your fiber intake.

    Hence, it could ultimately help in increasing your satiety levels and reducing your energy intake.

  7. Adequate Sleep

    Getting about seven to eight hours of sleep is always recommended.

    When you sleep, your body tries to recover from stress and regulates your appetite levels and hormonal levels.

    When all these processes occur, there are high chances that your body will start proper functionality.

    Hence, the extra fat accumulated over the years could be used in these activities.

    If one might understand the biology behind the same, a lack of sleep could affect your neurotransmitters.

    It could be possible that your body’s natural levels of ghrelin rise, and there may be a sharp decrease in the leptin levels. This disbalance may lead to an increase in food cravings.

  8. Meditation

    Meditation is a technique in which one may try to calm themselves down, look within their minds, and raise a sense of awareness about themselves.

    This could also help improve focus and attention. In totality, if one tries to meditate regularly, they may have better control over their bodies.

    Hence, the additional cravings for fat or a portion of junk food may get subsided.

    On the other hand, your mind may tell you to eat proper and nutritious food and achieve adequate sleep every day.

  9. Glucomannan

    Glucomannan is another one of the most talked about fibers that is water soluble and has been famous for controlling appetite.

    People who suffer from constipation also use it as it has a fiber-rich ingredient.

  10. Other Tips

    There are several other things which one should keep in mind as well.

    For example, people suffering from lung and heart diseases should not immediately get involved in rigorous exercises.

    Before going for any particular diet, such as a Low-carbs diet[16], Low-fat diet, Keto diet, intermittent fasting, etc., one should consult a dietician before people incorporate it into their lifestyle.

    Going on a medication itself would not solve the problem of obesity if a proper[17] diet is not accompanied.

    Therefore, a doctor’s consultation is essential before starting medications. Most of the time, surgical treatments for obesity lead to serious nutritional deficiencies in the body.

    Therefore, it is better to include essential vitamins and minerals supplements.

BMI

BMI is an acronym for Body Mass Index. As the name suggests, it may tell you whether you are overweight or not according to your height and weight.

The average body BMI of a healthy adult could range[18] between 18.5 kg/m2 and 24.9 kg/m2. This may be severely affected when you are obese.

The right way to calculate BMI is in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. More on it is here[19].

  • Adults BMI

    An adult’s BMI during obesity is significantly higher when they are obese. As The Centre For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentioned in this[20] article, the BMI of an adult in the obese range is 30.0 or more.

    An obese adult may affect your overall body function, such as increased heart risk and stroke. The chances of getting type-2 diabetes could become prominent.

  • Children’s BMI

    The BMI of an obese child is calculated in the percentile. A BMI above the 95th percentile is considered obesity for children and teens[21].

    At the developing stage in growing[22] children, BMI count also tends to change frequently as per their average height.

    The higher percentile BMI in children could affect their mental health. It may lead to poor self-esteem, which could further cause depression.

Conclusion

It can be said that beauty cannot be standardized but health can be. There are no easy or quick ways to deal with obesity and the comparatively quicker ways can sometimes have long-term complications.

Your fight with obesity depends on consistency and care. Perfect body weight and the smooth functioning of all the organs and organ systems are necessary for a healthy body. A healthy lifestyle is a blend of all these things.

References/Sources

Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1. Obesity Last updated November 29, 2016 Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/obesity.html
  2. What Are Overweight and Obesity? Last updated on March 24, 2022 Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/overweight-and-obesity.
  3. Maria Razzoli, Carolyn Pearson, Scott Crow, et al. Stress, overeating, and obesity: insights from human studies and preclinical models Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017 May; 76(Pt A): 154–162. Published online 2017 Mar 11. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.01.026
  4. Ekta Tirthani; Mina S. Said; Anis Rehman. Genetics and Obesity Last Update: September 28, 2021. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK573068/
  5. TM Rajan and V Menon Psychiatric disorders and obesity: A review of association studies J Postgrad Med. 2017 Jul-Sep; 63(3): 182–190.
    doi: 10.4103/jpgm.JPGM_712_16
  6. Kirsi H Pietiläinen, Jaakko Kaprio, Patrik Borg, et al. Physical inactivity and obesity: A vicious circle Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Feb; 16(2): 409–414. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.72
  7. Parul Singla, Animesh Bardoloi, and Anuj A Parkash Metabolic effects of obesity: A review World J Diabetes. 2010 Jul 15; 1(3): 76–88.
    Published online 2010 Jul 15. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v1.i3.76
  8. Susan Sam Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Obes Manag. 2007 Apr; 3(2): 69–73.doi: 10.1089/obe.2007.0019
  9. Causes of Obesity Page last reviewed: March 21, 2022 Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/basics/causes.html
  10. Barbara B. Kahn and Jeffrey S. Flier Obesity and insulin resistance J Clin Invest. 2000 Aug 15; 106(4): 473–481. doi: 10.1172/JCI10842
  11. Salvatore Carbone, Justin M Canada, Hayley E Billingsley, et al. Obesity paradox in cardiovascular disease: where do we stand? Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2019; 15: 89–100. Published online 2019 May 1. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S168946
  12. Giovanni De Pergola and Franco Silvestris Obesity as a Major Risk Factor for Cancer J Obes. 2013; 2013: 291546. Published online 2013 Aug 29. doi: 10.1155/2013/291546
  13. ALISSA D. SMETHERS and BARBARA J. ROLLS DIETARY MANAGEMENT OF OBESITY: CORNERSTONES OF HEALTHY EATING PATTERNS Med Clin North Am. 2018 Jan; 102(1): 107–124. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.009
  14. Beverly G Tchang, Mohini Aras, Rekha B Kumar, et al. Pharmacologic Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults Last Update: August 2, 2021. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279038/
  15. Vance L. Albaugh and Naji N. Abumrad Surgical treatment of obesity Version 1. F1000Res. 2018; 7: F1000 Faculty Rev-617.Published online 2018 May 21. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.13515.1
  16. Robert Oh; Brian Gilani; Kalyan R. Uppaluri. Low Carbohydrate Diet Last Update: July 12, 2021. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/
  17. Chrysi Koliaki, Theodoros Spinos, Μarianna Spinou, et al. Defining the Optimal Dietary Approach for Safe, Effective and Sustainable Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults Healthcare (Basel). 2018 Sep; 6(3): 73. Published online 2018 Jun 28. doi: 10.3390/healthcare6030073
  18. Adult BMI Calculator. Date of publication: January 21, 2022. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html
  19. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/childrens_bmi_formula.html
  20. Defining Adult Overweight & Obesity. Date of publication: June 3, 2022. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/basics/adult-defining.html
  21. About Child & Teen BMI. Date of publication: March 17, 2021. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html
  22. Krushnapriya Sahoo, Bishnupriya Sahoo, Ashok Kumar Choudhury, et al. Childhood obesity: causes and consequences. J Family Med Prim Care. 2015 Apr-Jun; (2): 187–192. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.154628

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