Health Consequences of Obesity


Obesity is a condition in which a person has an excessive amount of body weight. The US Surgeon General has previously declared obesity a public health epidemic, and it is estimated that 35 % of women and 31% of men are seriously overweight in the United States. 15% of children in the United States are overweight.

 Man eating a big hamburger

Causes of Obesity

There are a couple common factors that can influence obesity: genetics, metabolic factors, and lifestyle.

Clinical studies have found that there is a slight genetic link to obesity - if your parents were obese, you’re likely to also be obese. It’s a 25% increase in likelihood of developing obesity if one or more parents is obese. Genetic markers may also predispose where an individual stores their excess fat.

How one person expends their energy may differ significantly from another person. Metabolic and hormonal influences of weight storage and loss play a role in triggering hunger and giving individuals a feeling of fullness after eating.

Lifestyle is probably the largest factor that determines if a person will be obese or overweight. Those with sedentary lifestyles are predisposed to gaining and retaining weight. If you eat a diet with a large percentage of calories coming from sugary, high-fat, refined foods, chances are that you will gain weight.

Health Complications of Obesity

People who are obese are at an increased risk of developing many health complications. Some of these health risks include:

  • All causes of death

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • High LDL (bad) cholesterol, low HDL (good) cholesterol, or high triglyceride levels (Dyslipidemia)

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Coronary heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Osteoarthritis (when cartilage and bone break down within a joint)

  • Sleep apnea and other breathing issues

  • Chronic inflammation and increased oxidative stress

  • Some cancers, particularly endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver

  • Lower quality of life

  • Mental illness, particularly clinical depression and anxiety

  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

Why is Obesity SO bad for you?

Our bodies weren’t designed to be overweight. Raising your body mass by just 5-10% you’re directly increasing the strain of your heart to pump blood to 5-10% more of you. Fat cells will already be vascularized (have blood vessels throughout for sufficient oxygenation) whether you’re at a healthy weight or not, but when those fat cells become much larger, there is a need for more oxygen to reach those cells, taking oxygen away from other tissues. Once fat cells start to grow more and more, vascular endothelial growth factor begins to be secreted from fat cells, causing new blood vessels to be formed to increase the blood supply to areas of high fat.

Our bones and joints were also only meant to handle so much weight. By increasing the strain on our skeletal complex by adding additional mass, we’re directly causing more wear and tear, leading to an increased likelihood of things like osteoarthritis or tendon ruptures.

Read next: Why is it so hard to keep the weight off?

Hannah Nourie