Obesity is a condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on health. People are considered obese when their body mass index (a measurement obtained by dividing a person’s weight by the square of the person’s height) is over 30 kg/m2, with the range 25–30 kg/m2 defined as overweight. Obesity increases the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and depression.

Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death globally, with increasing rates in adults and children. More than 10 million cases of obesity are reported every year in India. In 2015, 600 million adults and 100 million children were obese in 195 countries. Obesity is more common in women than men and obesity is also considered as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.

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How Does Obesity Affect Your Body?

Fat cells in the body create inflammatory molecules called cytokines that travel and create inflammation in all the other cells and tissues. Inflammation in the brain can affect memory and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. Inflammation also affects blood sugar system thus, increasing the risk of diabetes, and it affects blood vessels and cholesterol which increases the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

What Are The Causes of Obesity?

  • Genetics – Genetic, behavioral and hormonal influences on body weight can cause obesity.
  • Unhealthy diet – If taking more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities, your body stores these excess calories as fat and cause obesity.
  • Medical conditions – Although rare but medical conditions, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, and other diseases can cause obesity.
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What Are The Risk Factors for Obesity?

  • Genetics – Genetics may also play a role in how efficiently the body converts food into energy and how the body burns calories during exercise.
  • Family history – If either of the parents is obese, the risk of the children being obese is increased.
  • Inactivity – Exercise burns up the calories one takes every day. Not exercising can add up calories causing obesity. Sometimes medical problems, such as arthritis, can lead to decreased activity, which contributes to weight gain.
  • Unhealthy diet – High-calorie diet; rich in fast food and lacking fruits and vegetables contributes to weight gain.
  • Medical problems – Obesity may be caused by medical conditions such as Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome and others.
  • Certain medications – Certain medications like antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, antipsychotic medications, steroids and beta blockers can lead to weight gain.
  • Age – With increasing age, hormonal changes, muscle stiffness, and a less active lifestyle increase the risk of obesity.
  • Pregnancy – Weight gain during pregnancy may contribute to the development of obesity in women.
  • Quitting smoking – Quitting smoking is often related to weight gain; sometimes weight gain is enough to cause obesity. However, quitting smoking is still a greater benefit to health than continuing to smoke.
  • Lack of sleep – Lack of sleep or too much sleep can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite which may cause you to crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain.
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What Are The Symptoms of Obesity?

If the body mass index (BMI) of a person is 25 or more than that, the person is obese. There are no symptoms of obesity other than knowing it from measuring BMI.

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How is Obesity Diagnosed?

  • Physical exam – Measuring height, checking vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature, listening to your heart and lungs and examining your abdomen can help identify the problem.
  • Calculating BMI – BMI is necessary to determine the level of obesity.
  • Measuring waist circumference – Fat stored around the waist, sometimes called visceral fat or abdominal fat, may further increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Women with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches and men with a waist measurement of more than 40 inches may have more health risks than do people with smaller waist measurements.
  • Checking for other health problems – Sometimes certain medical conditions are the cause of obesity, which will help in knowing the cause of it.
  • Blood tests – This test may include a cholesterol test, liver function test, a fasting glucose, a thyroid test, and others.
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How to Prevent And Control Obesity?

  • Exercise regularly – Exercise for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week to prevent weight gain.
  • Follow a healthy diet plan – Add low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet and avoid saturated fat and limit sweets and alcohol.
  • Monitoring weight – Monitoring weight every week or month can help you detect small weight gains before they become big problems.
  • Be consistent – Stick and follow healthy-weight plan during the week, on the weekends, and amidst vacation and holidays as much as possible to increases your chances of long-term success.

Treatment of Obesity – Allopathic Treatment

Various weight-loss surgeries may help. These include:

  • Gastric bypass surgery – In a gastric bypass, the surgeon creates a small pouch at the top of the stomach. The small intestine is then cut a short distance and connected to the new pouch to which food and liquid flow directly to thus, bypassing most of the stomach.
  • Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB) – In this procedure, the stomach is separated into two pouches with an inflatable band. Pulling the band tight, like a belt, the surgeon creates a tiny channel between the two pouches which keeps the opening from expanding and is generally designed to stay in place permanently.
  • Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch – This procedure begins with removal of a large part of the stomach. The surgeon leaves the valve that releases food to the small intestine and duodenum. Later middle section of the intestine is closed and the last part is attached directly to the duodenum. The separated section (intestine) is reattached to the end of the intestine to allow bile and digestive juices to flow into this part of the intestine.

Apart from surgery, the initial treatment goal is usually a modest weight loss which can be achieved by making necessary changes in your diet and exercising regularly for 200 to 200 minutes every week. Some behavioral therapies help in achieving this goal. Other than that certain medications help in weight loss:

  • Orlistat (Xenical)
  • Orcaserin (Belviq)
  • Phentermine, topiramate (Qsymia)
  • Buproprion, naltrexone (Contrave)
  • Liraglutide (Saxenda)
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Treatment for Obesity – Homeopathic Treatment

  • Natrum muriaticum – This is prescribed for the excess of fat mainly in the thighs and buttocks as compared to other parts of the body. Also given if the person has gained excess weight due to long-continued stress or depression.
  • Lycopodium – This is used mainly when the thighs and buttock areas have excess fat, just like the above-mentioned medicine Natrum. But the patients who require Lycopodium are chronic sufferers of gastric troubles like flatulence and constipation.
  • Nux Vomica – This is recommended for those who have gained excess weight due to sedentary habits.
  • Antimonium crudum – This is prescribed for obese children and for children who have extreme irritability and an aversion to be touched or be looked at.
  • Ignatia – This is prescribed when depression is the cause of weight gain and the patient usually eat to a great extent due to sadness and consequently gain weight.
  • Graphites – This is prescribed when the women gained excess weight around menopause.
  • Thyroidinum – This medicine is suitable when obesity is due to an imperfect function of thyroid gland.
  • Pulsatilla – This is prescribed when obesity is due to uterine problems.

Obesity – Lifestyle Tips

  • Learning about obesity can help in making necessary changes in life and also help in learning the actual cause of it and harmful it can be.
  • Setting realistic goals like daily or weekly goals for exercise, weight loss and small changes in diet can help you achieve your goal faster and better.
  • Sticking to your treatment plan and motivate yourself to not quit in between. Again taking small steps daily can help well.
  • Keeping a record of daily food intake and weight loss can help you remain accountable for your eating and exercise habits.
  • Identifying and avoiding food triggers will help in achieving the goal faster.
  • Taking your medications as directed and do not miss your dose.

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Obesity?

  • Cardio exercises like running, swimming for 30 to 60 minutes every week; in three separate 10-minutes sessions.
  • Strength training like chest and leg press, leg extensions every week; two sets of 12 repetitions.

Obesity & Pregnancy – Things to Know

  • Obesity during pregnancy is risky and can cause gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and sleep apnea.
  • Obese women have an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth and an increased risk of having birth defects in the baby like heart defect and neural tube defect.
  • Obesity during pregnancy can also make it difficult to check for baby’s heartbeat.
  • Preeclampsia in obese women can cause preterm birth too.
  • Losing weight before pregnancy can help prevent birth problems.
  • However, despite being obese, one can have a healthy pregnancy if taken care of weight and diet and exercise.

Common Complications Related to Obesity

  • High triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Breathing disorders
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Gynecological problems
  • Erectile dysfunction and sexual health issues
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Osteoarthritis


Q. What is the difference between being overweight and being obese?

A. This is often determined by measuring mass index (BMI), which is a ratio between weight and height. BMI between 25 and 29.9 means you are overweight and more than that indicates obesity.

Q. Why is obesity a growing problem?

A. Because of changes in food habits, use of multi-media like watching TV and using the phone and less physical activity.

Q. What is the best way to lose weight?

A. The best way to lose weight is to follow a healthy diet and exercising regularly at least 5 times every week for 200 minutes minimum.

Q. Does liposuction work for obesity?

A. Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure that re-shapes and smoothens the body. Though it removes unwanted deposits of excess fat, it is not a substitute for diet and physical activity and is not a treatment for obesity.

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