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Item ID: nht00050   Source ID: 2

Description: Obesity

Definition

Obesity is an abnormally high proportion of body fat.

Causes

A person becomes obese when calorie intake is consistently greater than the number of calories burned through activity and basic metabolic processes.

Several factors can influence obesity, including: Biologic factors (such as the amount and activity of certain chemicals in... More

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Obesity

Definition

Obesity is an abnormally high proportion of body fat.

Causes

A person becomes obese when calorie intake is consistently greater than the number of calories burned through activity and basic metabolic processes.

Several factors can influence obesity, including: Biologic factors (such as the amount and activity of certain chemicals in the body) Cushing's disease Froehlich's syndrome Genetic tendency Laurence-Moon-Biedl syndrome Medications (corticosteroids, antidepressants, and antipsychotics) Polycystic ovary syndrome Prader-Willi syndrome Underactive thyroid

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Advancing age Decreased activity Imbalance of excess calories versus decreased activity Quitting smoking Sedentary lifestyle Working varied shifts

Symptoms

Symptoms include: Increased weight Obvious areas of fat deposits Thickness around the midsection

Diagnosis

The doctor can often determine if you are obese by looking at your body and assessing the percentage of body fat.

Methods of assessing body fat include: Body mass index Height and weight tables Measuring body folds with a caliper Measuring waist-to-hip ratio Water-displacement tests

Tests may include: Blood tests – to rule out other medical conditions that may cause excess body weight

Treatment

Obesity is difficult to treat. Cultural factors, personal habits, lifestyle, and genetics all affect obesity treatment.

Approaches to weight loss include:

Keep a Food Diary

Keep track of everything you eat and drink.

Increase Physical Activity and Exercise

Ask your doctor about how to begin an appropriate exercise program. Limit the amount of time you spend watching television and using the computer. This is especially important for children.

Reduce Total Calories Eaten Per Day

Your doctor or a dietitian can determine what your total calorie intake should be, based on: Your current weight Your weight loss goals

Reduce Dietary Fat

Keep fat intake under 35% of total calories eaten daily. New guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program have increased fat intake to allow a maximum of 35% fat, a recommendation that is especially helpful for obese people since they are prone to pre-diabetes.

Behavior Therapy

Behavior therapy may help you understand: How to combat overeating tendencies When you tend to overeat Why you tend to overeat

Weight Loss Programs

Research on the effectiveness of weight loss programs is limited. They do seem to work for some people, however.

Team Up with a Partner

Some studies suggest that a partner or group may help you improve your diet and fitness.

Medications

Medications for weight loss are available, but some have led to serious complications. Do not use over-the-counter or herbal remedies for weight loss unless your doctor monitors you for side effects. Your doctor can make recommendations about prescription weight loss drugs.

Bariatric Surgery

Surgical procedures reduce the size of the stomach and rearrange the digestive tract. The smaller stomach can only hold a tiny portion of food at a time. Operations include gastric bypass and laparoscopic gastric banding. These procedures are only an option for people who are dangerously overweight, due to the potential for serious complications.

Note:

Complications of untreated obesity include: Decreased energy Gallstones Gout Heart disease High blood pressure Increased risk of certain cancers Infertility Poor self-image, depression Sleep apnea Type 2 diabetes Worsening arthritis symptoms

Prevention

Preventing obesity can be difficult because so many factors influence your weight. General recommendations include: Ask a dietitian for help planning a diet that will help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if necessary. Consult your doctor or a dietitian about an appropriate number of calories to eat per day. Eat a diet with no more than 35% of daily calories from fat. Follow a medically approved, appropriate exercise program. Learn to eat smaller portions of food. Most Americans eat portions that are super-sized, or too large. You can learn about appropriate portion sizes by talking to a dietitian. Limit the amount of time you spend in watching TV, using the computer and other sedentary activities. Talk to your doctor or a qualified exercise professional about working physical activity into your daily life.

Last reviewed: December 2002 by Elizabeth Smoots, MD.

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