Obesity: Health Risks


Obesity is a label given to people who are overweight. An obese person has weight that can posses various health risks. This condition affects both adults and teens. BMI “body mass index” uses weight and height to relate to an individuals body fat. Note that the method doesn’t calculate body fat directly but relates the weight and height to body fat, for most people BMI relate to their body fat. (Zagorsky JL 2004).

Example: adult

BMI observation
Below 18 Underweight
18 to 25 Healthy
25 to 29 Overweight
30 and above Obese

BMI fails to consider the length of the legs or body build. For instance body builder or professional athletes may negate BMI values. However these findings apply to the larger part of the population.

BMI is calculated by multiplying the weight by 705 and divided by the square height in inches. For example, 155 pounds 5.7 the BMI 24.3. Calculations: weight 155×705 =109275.height 67×67 =4489.divide the results of the weight by those of the height. The result is 24.3.


Obesity is related to environment, behavior and genetics. Obesity may be due to energy imbalance; this is when the amount of calories consumed doesn’t match the calories used. When calories consumed are greater than the calories used then there is weight gain, if the calories consumed are less than those used then there is weight loss but there is no change in the weight if the calories consumed match those used. Calories are usually burned during physical exercise. Any excess energy is stored by the body as fat. Therefore the choice of diet, overeating and physical inactivity influence energy imbalance. (Lance Levy2004)

Choice of diet. The eating habits of most Americans are changing. Fast foods, soft drinks and pre-packaged foods are more available and convenient. They have high calories level, fat and sugar but they are marketed as healthy or low fat or low calories count. The size portions have also increased. This has lead to increased calories consumption. It’s thus advisable to examine the labels of food before purchase and to engage in a lot of physical exercise. (Lance Levy2004)

Inactivity. Regular exercise helps in weight control. Physical activities such as gardening, swimming, dancing, tennis, football, aerobics and walking or biking all beneficial. In spite of this knowledge many Americans don’t make exercise a part of their routine. Technology has also contributed to this sedentary lifestyle. People drive a short distance which they can easily walk to or take the elevator instead of using the stairs. Television and computer games have become the pass time of choice instead of out door game activities such as hiking, boat rides, biking, football, tennis or swimming. (Zagorsky JL 2004).

Overeating leads to increased weight especially if one is consuming food rich in fats, sugar, or food with high calories. The portion size of fast foods is thus an issue of concern.

Psychological factors. Some people use food as a comforter. Their emotions influence their eating habits. They tend to eat more if they are stressed, anxious, bored or sad.

The genetic make up of an individual can also make him prone or susceptible to obesity. This can be the case if one or both parents are obese. Hormonal regulations of fat that are influenced by genes can also cause obesity. Leptin is a hormone that helps the body to control weight. It’s usually produced in the fat cells and sends signals to the brain thus regulating consumption depending on the current food stores. However the behavior of that individual will also have a role to play. (Lance Levy2004)

Diseases and medical drugs. Medication associated with weight gain include: diabetes drugs, antidepressants, oral contraceptives, high blood pressure treatment and anticonvulsants; used to control seizures. Diseases like polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome and insulin resistance can contribute to obesity. (Zagorsky JL 2004).

Metabolism rate. Women are said to have a slower metabolism Compared to men. This is because men generally have more muscles. Muscles burn more calories in the body compared to other tissues. Hence who are more likely to put on weight and its is also more challenging for them to loss weight compared to men. As we age we are more prone to weight increase since the body’s metabolism tends to slow down. (Lopez R 2004).


Statistics in America show that obesity has increased in both children and adults.

According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) surveys on obesity in:

Group 1976-1980 2003-2004
Adults (20-74yrs) 15% 33%
Children (2-5 yrs) 5% 14%
Children (6-11 yrs) 6.5% 19%
Teens (12-19 yrs) 5% 17%

The National objective for 2010 is to reduce obesity in the country. The target for adults is a 15% reduction. However current data indicates that the trend is increasing instead of declining.

Side effects or health issues

Increase in obesity has had adverse effects on the health of affected Americans. It has lead to the increase of diseases and health conditions that are related to weight issues, such as:


Overweight individuals are three times more prone to diabetes. Hypertension or high blood pressure, Stroke, Heart disease.

Increase in cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin resistance make an individual prone to cardiovascular disease. The location of the body fat also influences cardiovascular disease risk.

Respiratory problems


Obesity leads to increase in hormonal activities which are related to cancer development.


Excess weight in obese individuals stresses the bone cartilages.

Sleep apnea

It is characterized by snoring at night, interrupted sleep and sleepiness during the day. Headaches and blurred vision may also be experienced.

Fatty liver disease

This condition is as a result of increased fat in the liver and not due to alcohol abuse. This interferes with the normal functioning of the liver.

Static showing the trends and adversity of obesity related diseases

Weight loss can prevent most of the diseased related to obesity. Obese persons compared to persons with a normal weight have a 50% to 100% risk of death from all causes.

A study shows that obese children are showing early signs of diabetes (one in four obese children) and 60% of them are at risk of heart disease.

According to a research done by the centre for Disease control obesity was responsible for 4000,000 deaths in 2000 compared to the 300,000 deaths related to obesity in 1990.

According to the September issue of American journal of public health, obesity is responsible for 300,000 deaths annually in America. This research by the National Centre for Health Statistics made obesity the second major cause of death in the US. The data was arrived at through research and not science.

Prevalence of obesity related diseases

disease Type II diabetes Cardiovascular disease Breast and colon cancer Gall bladder surgery High blood pressure
percentage 80% 70% 42% 30% 26%

Medical cost related to obesity (according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention)

In children and adolescents (1997-1999) $127 million, (1979-1981) $35 million.

Total cost related to obesity in 2000 was $117 billion. The medical costs related to obesity have increased tremendously

Recommendation and education

Obesity tend need not be ignored but carefully considered and measures developed to decrease its prevalence.

A healthy diet should be the main emphasis. Individuals should consume a balanced diet containing the entire nutrient needed by the body in their right quantity and a lot of fluids; water, natural juices and milk.

Physical activities should also be integrated into our lifestyle. Less time should be spent in front of the television set or computer. Instead people should develop hobbies that require physical activities such as gardening, hiking and playing ball games. Physical exercise ensures general body fitness, boosts the immune system and prevents diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular disease. It also strengthens the bones and muscles and proves the growth of nerves. Physical excise improves breathing which increases the amount of oxygen available to the brain thus improving the brain function. (Zagorsky JL 2004).

Various treatments are available for obese individuals such as:

Use of meal substitutes

This makes it easier to keep track of what is consumed. Supplements come in the form of bars, powder, or liquid. The labels should contain information concerning the amount of calories and nutrients.

Use of artificial sweeteners

They usually have fewer calories compared to the normal table sugar.

Weight loss products sold over the counter

The effectiveness of such products is not scientifically proven. However their manufactures claim that they help the body to breakdown excess fats. Examples of these products are; ma huang, white willow, guarana or kola nut and so on. Some of these products have side effects like seizures, death and heart attack. (Zagorsky JL 2004).

Medical treatment

Medication like sibutramine (meridia) and phentermine (Adipex, Fastin) work by suppressing the appetite. Other medication act as fat blockers such as xenical. Such drugs have side effects like gas, diarrhea, cramps, and inabsorbtion of vitamins, headaches, irritability and insomnia (Lopez R 2004).


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Snow V, Barry P, Weiss K (2005). “Pharmacologic and surgical management of obesity in primary care: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians”.

Morrill A, Chinn C (2004). The obesity epidemic in the United States. Journal of Public Health Policy; 25:353-366.

Lopez R (2004). “Urban sprawl and risk for being overweight or obese”. Am Journal of Public Health 94 (9): 1574–9.

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Paul F Campos, Jan Wright and Michael Gard. (2005).The obesity Epidemic: Science, morality and ideology.Boston: McGraw hill publishers.

Christopher G Fairburn and Kelly D brownell. (2005).Eating disorders and obesity: A comprehensive Handbook.Cambridge: Cambridge University press.

Kathy Leach.(2006).The overweight patient: A psychological approach to Understanding and working with obesity.Chicago:Chicago university press.

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