Obesity is defined as having too much body fat, which develops when the intake of fats for the use of energy exceeds its expenditure. It is measured as body mass index (BMI). To know more about BMI, please click here.

Obesity is a growing problem around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is emerging as an epidemic and is spreading rapidly across the world. In the US, an estimated 97 million adults are overweight or obese which represents more than 50% of the American adult population. Among them, 11 million adults suffer from severe obesity.

According to the American Obesity Association, obesity poses an increased risk of death by 50-100% when compared to normal weight, with 300,000 to 587,000 annual deaths. Owing to the significant increase in health risks, obesity has become the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the US.

Causes of Obesity

A variety of factors contribute to obesity which makes it a complex health issue to address:

  • Surroundings
  • Eating and exercising habits
  • Genetic and psychological factors
  • How well your body turns food into energy

Consequences of Obesity

Obesity is associated with many serious physiological, psychological and social consequences, as listed below.

Physiological consequences of obesity are:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Cancer (breast, uterine and colon cancer)
  • Digestive disorders (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD)
  • Breathing problems (asthma)
  • Problems with fertility and pregnancy
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Joint problems (arthritis)
  • Shorter life expectancy

Psychological and social consequences of obesity are:

  • Negative self-image
  • Social discrimination and isolation Depression
  • Anxiety

Other consequences include:

  • Difficulty in performing normal tasks, as movement becomes more difficult
  • Feeling tired more quickly
  • Experiencing shortness of breath
  • Difficulty in using public transport seats and driving cars
  • Difficulty in maintaining personal hygiene

Treatment Options

Obesity treatment may involve surgical or non-surgical methods.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Non-surgical treatment involves comprehensive lifestyle management. It includes diet, exercise and medication which have long been regarded as the conventional methods to achieve weight loss. However, they show short-term success, and for the morbidly obese, the results rarely last. For many, this can translate into what's called the “yo-yo syndrome”, in which the patients continually gain and lose weight with the possibility of serious psychological and health consequences.

When it comes to permanent weight loss, recent research reveals that conventional methods of weight loss generally fail. Patients on diet, exercise programs or medication lose about 10% of their body weight but tend to gain two-thirds of it in one year and almost all of it within five years. Another study found that patients in weight loss programs who were able to maintain their reduced weight after five years are less than 5%.

Surgical Treatment

Weight-loss surgery has proven to be a successful method for the treatment of morbid obesity. Due to the continuous evolution of surgical options, today there are multiple options that enable both patients and surgeons to choose the procedure of choice according to their convenience. Some of the surgical procedures performed to treat obesity include:

  • Intragastric balloon
  • Gastric banding
  • Sleeve gastrectomy
  • Roux en Y gastric bypass
  • Cosmetic procedures such as liposuction, tummy tuck and gastric imbrications

The use of laparoscopy for performing these procedures is the biggest advancement in bariatric surgery. The laparoscopic procedure is a minimally invasive procedure where the surgery is performed through small incisions. Patients experience minimal discomfort and rapid recovery with the process.

Related Topics:

  • The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
  • American Thyroid Association
  • The Endocrine Society of Australia
  • Endocrine Society
  • Asia & Oceania Thyroid Association