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Causes of Obesity and Overweight

Updated on January 27, 2015

One of the most important step in maintaining vibrant and robust health is keeping your weight within the normal range. The Surgeon General's "call to action" issued on December 2001 states, "health problems resulting from being overweight and obese could reverse many of the healthy gains achieved in the U.S." listed below are some alarming statistics associated with being overweight and obese.

1) An estimated 60 to 65 percent of U.S. adults are overweight.

2) 13 to 15 percent of U.S. children are overweight.

3) Obesity among adults has doubled in recent times.

4) approximately 300,000 U.S. deaths a year are associated with obesity and overweight.

The average human body has 30 to 40 billion fat cells. Most of the extra calories derived from food that we don't need for immediate energy is stored as fat. Overweight refers to an excess of body weight in relation to height that includes all tissues, fat, bone and muscles. Being overweight does not necessarily mean increased fat. Individuals that are overweight could also be that way because of increased lean muscle. Obesity refers specifically to an excess of body fat. It is possible to be overweight without being obese.

Body fat can be determined using BMI (Body Mass Index) - a measure of the relationship of weight to height. A BMI of 24 or under is considered desirable, individuals with a BMI >=30 are considered obese and individuals with a BMI 25-29.9 are considered overweight.

Being obese not only makes an individual feel unattractive but puts them at extra risk for a host of ailments. As fat accumulates, it crowds the space occupied by the internal organs and this may lead to problems. Being even moderately overweight or obese will put undue stress on the back, the knees and internal organs. This may eventually exacerbate many physical problems and compromise health. Obesity increases the body's resistance to insulin giving rise to diabetes and susceptibility to infection, heart problems, high blood pressure, kidney disease and many other ailments. Recent studies put the facts in the starkest terms: the more obese you are, the sicker you may become.

Today's sedentary lifestyle coupled with an ever increasing consumption of nutritionally depleted foods laden with saturated fat and sugar has created an epidemic concern over weight and obesity, giving unsightly bulges that threaten both zippers and health.

Commonly seen, there are two shapes of obese people:

A) Pear shape, where mostly women are the victims (lower body fat).

B) Apple shape, upper body fat where mostly men are the victims.

Morbid Obesity

We are all familiar with the problem of eating more food than the body needs to fuel its normal level of activity and of putting on weight as the excess calories consumed are stored within the body as fat.

But at what point are we considered to be obese rather than simply overweight and what is the difference between obesity and morbid obesity? More to the point, when is an individual classed as being morbidly obese and what is the treatment for this condition?

Various measures of weight have been used over the years but the definition commonly accepted today is that of the Body Mass Index (BMI) which was published by the World Health Organization in 2000.

This is a method used to estimate body fat and is a general indicator of a person's weight against the generally accepted norm. It is not, however, a perfect system and, in a clinical setting, doctors will take a number of factors into account when deciding whether or not a patient is morbidly obese.

In simple terms BMI is calculated by taking as person's weight in kilograms and dividing it by the square of that person's height in meters. The result is then interpreted as follows:

  • Less than 18.5 indicates that a person is underweight.
  • 18.5 to 24.9 is considered to be normal weight.
  • 25.0 to 29.9 is classed as being overweight.
  • 30.0 to 39.9 is obese.
  • A figure of more than 40 indicates that a person is morbidly obese.

So a man of say 6 ft (1.8 m) and weighting 200 lbs (90.7 kg) would have a BMI of 28 and would clearly be overweight. If his weight rose to 250 lbs (113.4 kg) his BMI would be 35 and he would now be classed as obese. Should he continue to gain weight and reach say 290 lbs (131.5 kg) he would be said to suffer from morbid obesity.

This is all well and good and we can clearly see that our man at 250 lbs or at 290 lbs is very much overweight and can understand that we are going to call him obese, but this still doesn't explain just what we mean by morbid obesity.

As weight increases the presence of fat deposits in various parts of the body, together with the sheer weight that the body's frame is supporting, starts to give rise to a variety of problems.

At first these can be relatively minor but, as more and more fat is laid down within the body, these problems can lead to complications which are literally life threatening. At this point your weight can literally kill you and hence the use of the term morbid obesity.

There is a long list of serious and life-threatening conditions and disorders which can accompany obesity and these are generally termed comorbidities. These include:

  • Diabetes.
  • Heart problems including coronary-artery disease.
  • Gallbladder disease.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension).
  • Gallbladder disease.
  • Sleep apnea.

It is also at this point that morbid obesity surgery (commonly referred to as bariatric surgery or gastric bypass surgery) kicks in and, although it is often not understood by a large section of the population, the purpose of such surgery is not simply cosmetic but is very much medical and is aimed principally at reducing the risk of developing a range of life threatening conditions associated directly with being significantly overweight.

Science of Weight Loss: Pathophysiology of Obesity


Causes of Obesity & Overweight

1) Lack of knowledge - regarding good fat and bad fat. Instead of eating the right type of fats that support our health, most of us are eating the wrong type of fats which increase fat tissue in our body making us overweight or obese. It is the wrong fat and high calories that make us obese or overweight.

2) Overeating - due to stress, anxiety or boredom.

3) High intake of calories - from fried foods and sugar products.

4) Sedentary life - no exercise.

5) Crash diets - almost always are self-defeating, any swift and severe reduction in calories causes extreme slowdown in the body's metabolism. When metabolism slows down so does calorie burning, crash diets are just a Band-Aid solution.

6) Glandular malfunctions - underactive thyroid and adrenal glands.

7) Food allergies - incompatible foods disrupt metabolism and can initiate thyroid damage and cause water retention making you obese or overweight.

8) Junk food - almost all supermarkets carry these products.

9) Stress - under stress weight gain may increase because of release of cortisol. Cortisol imbalances can stimulate fat deposits in various parts of the body, resulting in weight gain.

In spite of all these factors, reducing weight and maintaining it, is not impossible. "Where there's a will there's a way".

The key word in the above quotation is will, YOU have to be the one in charge of your weight. YOU have to be in control and YOU have to be determined. If you are truly determined than you've won half the battle, there are no shortcuts.

Losing weight sensibly and safely requires a multifaceted approach that includes weight loss goals, lifestyle changes, exercise and good supplements. Traditionally there are three basic approaches to selecting supplements and herbs for weight management:

1) Diuretic herbs - these may help eliminate excess water from the body.

2) Lipotropic supplements - these may help manage cholesterol and fat.

3) Natural appetite suppressants - these may help reduce hunger cravings.

Along with supplements and herbs, lifestyle changes and exercise are just as important to reduce increased weight and maintain ideal weight.


To lose weight, fewer calories should be consumed. Calories, the measure of the energy in your food, is the currency of weight control. In general, the calories that you consume are either burned or used to create body fat.


What should I eat? Reduce all starchy food, fried foods and sugary foods. Healthy diet is healthy weight, ban saturated fats and Trans fats(hydrogenated oils). Those who eat saturated fats weigh the most. Use good fats like olive oil or flaxseed oil fight fat with fat. Drink plenty of water: 7 to 8 glasses of water a day will keep you in good shape. Rather than drinking regular tea try Green Tea - Besides it's antioxidant properties, it helps with weight loss by boosting metabolism.

Eat less exercise more

These four words sums up the most effective strategy. Exercise will help raise the body's metabolism.


Daily meditation will help alleviate stress and as a result reduce the overeating tendency associated with stress in some individuals. Interestingly, individuals that are fat due to stress which is due to the production of cortisol and who go to bed by 10 PM at which time cortisol levels fall may notice some weight reduction. While there are no magic pills, there are however, good effective supplements and herbs that help to reduce increased weight and help maintain ideal body weight.

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