Understanding Obesity

Children on bicycles

In 2004, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked obesity as the number one health risk facing America.

Obesity currently results in an estimated 400,000 deaths a year in the United States and costs the national economy nearly $122.9 billion annually.

Childhood obesity affects more than 15 percent of the population under 18 years old that is classified as overweight.

Obesity not only impacts lifestyle but can also lead to lower self-esteem, cause depression and discomfort in social situations, and significantly diminish quality of life. Obesity also increases a person’s risk for developing serious obesity-related health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome.


Defining Obesity

What’s the difference between obesity and simply being overweight?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the term overweight refers to body weight that is at least 10 percent over the recommended weight5 for a certain individual.

Recommended weight standards are generated based on a sampling of the U.S. population or by body mass index (BMI), a calculation that assesses weight relative to height. In common terms, “overweight” refers to an individual with a BMI of more than 25. Of course, it’s important to remember that being overweight may not only be the result of increased body fat, but the result of increased lean muscle as well;

Obesity is generally defined as an excessive amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass7. In numeric terms, obesity refers to a body weight that is at least 30 percent over the ideal weight for a specified height. More commonly, obesity refers to any individual with a BMI of more than 30.

*Note: The terms “overweight” and “obese” are used as nouns to reflect usage standards set by numerous U.S. health and regulatory agencies and the medical community.*

Causes of Obesity

Weight gain and obesity are caused by consuming more calories than the body needs – most commonly by eating a diet high in fat and calories, living a sedentary lifestyle, or both.

However, the imbalance between calories consumed and calories burned can also be caused by a number of different physiological factors, including genetic and hormonal problems related to deficiencies in internal body functions.

It is important to remember that obesity is not always caused by simple behavioral issues. In fact, endocrine researchers are leading exciting new research into the internal mechanisms that control metabolism, appetite, and satiety from food.

For instance, genetic determinations such as the way a body expends energy, hormones that affect the way calories are processed, and other organ systems in the body can all affect appetite. For these reasons, today’s physicians address a number of considerations when working with obese patients – and those considerations are increasingly going beyond just calorie counting and exercise.

Additional Obesity Information and Treatment Resources: