The World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight and obesity (obesity) according to the so-called body mass index (BMI).
Obesity and its precursor, overweight, are the main causes of important secondary diseases like high blood pressure, coronary artery calcification (coronary heart disease), type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, and various orthopedic and mental illnesses.
The distribution of body fat determines the personal health risk in addition to the degree of overweight (BMI value). The best measurement for it is the waist circumference. A significant increase in the risk of secondary diseases is present if the circumference is greater than the values of 102 centimeters for men or 88 centimeters for women.
Causes and risk factors
The body receives energy from the food it consumes. Energy is used for movement of any kind as well as for the basic metabolic rate that occurs at rest. Low energy expenditure coupled with high energy intake causes the body to store excess energy as fat.
Obesity and overweight are typically caused by a combination of poor dietary habits and an unfavorable genetic predisposition. Obese people frequently consume diets that are excessively high in fat and calories overall, in addition to getting little to no exercise. Psychological elements like stress or annoyance also have a positive impact. Less frequently, other diseases or the use of certain medications can cause obesity.
For example, the following causes can play a role in the development of obesity:
- genetic predisposition
- unfavorable and too high-calorie eating habits
- lack of exercise
- certain medications
Experts believe that a person’s BMI is largely genetic, based on twin studies. A person’s basal metabolic rate, or how many calories they consume while at rest and doing nothing, is most likely influenced by genetics. The BMI of these individuals is much more closely correlated with the BMI of their biological parents or siblings than with the BMI of their adoptive parents, according to a study of adopted adolescents and young adults.
Studies suggest that some obese individuals may experience increased hunger due to genetics. Given that the hypothalamus houses both the eating center and the satiety center, certain brain regions, particularly that region, are likely involved in this process.
High-calorie eating habits
A diet with too many calories is not always the result of carelessness, ignorance of health issues, or a lack of knowledge. Fresh fruit and vegetables may occasionally be skipped in favor of high-fat, high-calorie snacks due to convenience or a lack of time. Some of these “small snacks” contain the same number of calories as an entire meal. The frequent consumption of sugary beverages encourages weight gain in kids and teenagers. A constant surplus of food, especially if frequent meals are consumed in between, can also encourage overeating.
Lack of exercise
Regular exercise lowers your risk of developing many diseases, including obesity. However, more and more professional tasks are now completed while seated, elevators are used to ascend stairs, and longer distances are now frequently traveled by car rather than, perhaps, by bicycle. Many places have replaced active leisure activities with hours of couch-bound TV watching. The basis for this deficiency is frequently laid in early childhood: a link between a lack of exercise at a young age and obesity and the subsequent secondary diseases later in life can be established.
Time pressure, fast food, and stress can all lead to unhealthy eating habits. This can cause problems with self-esteem and self-perception, which can lead to eating disorders.
The diseases that can lead to obesity include, for example, eating disorders with excessive binge eating and excessive energy intake ( binge eating disorder ). Rarely, obesity can be the result of endocrine disorders, such as an underactive thyroid . Cushing’s syndrome is also mentioned as a possible cause , in which there is an excessive cortisol level in the blood as a result of medication or overproduction in the adrenal glands.
There are some medications that promote weight gain. However, these drugs usually only lead to obesity if there are other relevant factors involved. If there is a suspicion that a prescribed drug such as cortisone or a drug for depression or certain other mental illnesses is involved in weight gain, it is best to discuss this with the doctor treating you. He or she may be able to point out alternatives or advise on appropriate countermeasures.
Symptoms and consequences of obesity
People who are overweight or obese commonly experience rapid fatigue, lack of stamina, profuse sweating, and shortness of breath as their first-hand physical complaints. Due to the increased stress on the joints, weight gain results in a general restriction of mobility, frequent pain in the hips, knees, and spine, as well as an increased risk of osteoarthritis (joint wear and tear). However, secondary and ancillary diseases brought on or encouraged by obesity are frequently more serious. With rising BMI, the risk of developing it rises.
Common consequences of obesity:
High blood pressure
The most prevalent co-occurring disease with obesity is high blood pressure (also known as arterial hypertension). Increased BMI is directly correlated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, according to studies. In turn, high blood pressure raises the risk of arterial sclerosis, which can affect the vessels associated with heart disease (coronary heart disease).
Coronary heart disease
The risk of the coronary arteries being damaged rises noticeably as BMI rises. It’s also possible to have a heart attack. Of course, there are other risk factors as well, including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and elevated blood lipid levels.
Type 2 diabetes (diabetes)
Here, too, the following applies: the higher the BMI, the higher the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus. This applies to BMI values from 25. In addition to body weight, however, genetic factors also play a major role.
Studies have linked gaining weight to an increased risk of developing cancer. After menopause, uterine, pancreatic, gallbladder, and breast cancer in women receive the most attention. Esophageal, renal cell, and colon cancer are all more common in women than in men. The increased risk of cancer is most likely brought on by changes in specific hormones brought on by obesity. Obesity is now recognized as a risk factor for 13 different tumor types and accounts for six to ten percent of all cancer cases.
Reduced self-esteem, anxiety, and depression can be brought on by obesity. The stress that those affected experience on a psychological level may then trigger new binge eating episodes. The act of eating should then be soothing and relieving, but obese people find themselves in an endless cycle.
- orthopedic problems (e.g. arthrosis in knees and hips, back pain )
- Lipid metabolism disorders (e.g. increased blood lipid levels)
- Sleep apnea syndrome with nocturnal breathing pauses
- gynecological problems in women (e.g. urinary incontinence , infertility, birth and pregnancy complications)
- Disorders of potency and sexual desire in men