Obesity is basically a medical condition, which sets in, when the amount of calories consumed are more than being utilized. The body accumulates the surplus calories in the form of fat.

The world statistics as given by WHO says that about 1 billion adults across the world are obese and about 300 million are clinically overweight.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is basically a medical condition, which sets in, when the amount of calories consumed are more than being utilized. The body accumulates the surplus calories in the form of fat.

Obesity is defined as the condition of an excessive amount of fat or adipose deposit or accumulation in relation to the actual body mass.

Obesity is one of the major consequences of nowadays widely prevalent sedentary lifestyle.  It is spreading like an epidemic. The people are still not aware of its causative factors and the associated serious aftermath.

A person is said to be obese if he/she has an additional 30% or more of what is called as standard and accepted height–weight dimensions.

Obesity is assessed by BMI- the body mass index. A BMI of 25 to 29 indicates being overweight and if it is 30 then it reflects the person as obese.

Obesity: Causes

Generally the causes of obesity are over-eating and a dull prosaic life devoid of exercises.However factors like genetic, race, age, behavioural, etc. are also significant determining factors of obesity.

The important contributors of obesity include the following: 


What we eat is what our body reflects. The food we eat gives the energy to work. If we start consuming calories in excess amount, it gets accumulated in our body and we become overweight. Low cholesterol diet should be taken.

  • A proper and a balanced diet should be taken.
  • The daily calorie requirement for an adult woman is 1,877 calories while that for adult man is 2,618 calories. The main source of extra calories is carbohydrate consumption as against the popular belief of fats consumption. The sweet beverages are the true culprits responsible for those extra calories.

 Sedentary Lifestyle

Sedentary lifestyle is another significant factor responsible for obesity. Globally there has been a marked increase in sedentary lifestyle and working culture.  Almost 60% of the world’s population does not exercise, primarily with the high advent of mechanization and industrialization. Adoption of labour saving technologies is also responsible for less physical activities.

Certain Syndromes

Certain syndromes like Bardet – Biedl syndrome,  Prader – Willi syndrome, Cohen syndrome and MOMO syndrome, have obesity as a regular associated feature. 

Psychiatric and Medical Ailments

There are various medical and psychiatric disorders which in are also responsible for obesity development.

Medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, growth, and the excess eating disorders, binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome. 

The individuals having psychiatric illnesses are more prone to develop obesity than those not having such illnesses. 


Treatment with drugs like sulfonylureas,  thiazolidinediones, atypical antipsychotics, insulins, antidepressants, steroids, etc also lead to obesity.


It is seen that malnutrition in early stages of life may lead to development of obesity in latter life due to probably endocrinal changes that occur during the malnutrition phase. It leads to fat storage once the nutrition is restored.


Consumption of alcohol leads to adipose tissue deposits in the body; therefore alcohol intake is an important factor in obesity development.

Obesity: Assessment Methods

The assessment of obesity can be done by various methods such as Body Mass Index, Brocca Index, Lorentz Formula, Corpulence Index Skinfold Thickness, Waist and Waist Circumference.

Some of the important techniques for assessing obesity in an individual are:

1.     Body Weight– It can be calculated by:

     Body-mass Index- BMI ( Quetelet’s Index)=weight(kg)/square of                                                                                               Height(m)

     Ponderal Index =     Height(cms)/Cubic root of body weight

     Brocca Index = Height(cms) minus 100

For instance a person’s height is 180 cm, his expected weight would be 180-100=80 kg

     Lorentz Formula = Ht (cms)-100-   Ht (cms) –  50

                                                                  2(women or 4 men)    

    Corpulence Index   =      Actual Weight

                                               Desirable weight

Brocca Index and BMI are the widely used ones.

2. Skinfold Thickness

By using calipers like Harpenden skin calipers the skin thickness can be measured. It is taken on four sites- biceps, mid-triceps, subscapular and suprailiac regions.

The standard values for boys should be 50mm and 40 mm for girls.

3. Waist and Waist Circumference

Themeasurement of waist is from the midpoint of lower border of rib cage and iliac crest.

Obesity: Prevention & Management

Obesity can be managed or controlled by medicines as well as exercises, depending upon the choice of the individual as well as the presence or absence of any associated pathology.

The prevention of obesity involves:

  • Dietary changes,
  • Increased physical activity, and
  • Hunger suppressing drugs.

The most common drugs used for controlling obesity are Orlistat (Xenical) and sibutramine (it has cardiovascular side effects).However dieting and a good exercise regime are still the best therapeutic measures for obesity. 

The consumed calories should be adequately utilized so as to cut down the chances of their surplus storage. This can be achieved either by dieting or by exercising to burn down the extra kilos.

Weight loss by exercises should be subsequently maintained by following a low calorie diet otherwise the lost weight can be regained. 

For severe obesity surgery is the best option. 

Bariatic surgery is effective in severe cases as it has decreased mortality and long-term weight loss.

Obesity: Complications

Obesity is strongly interlinked with the development of various complications having adverse implications on the well being of the individual.

 Obesity is not only a load of excessive fat on the body but also a precursor of various chronic diseases like hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular ailments, diabetes type 2, etc.

The complications of obesity are:

  • Hypertension
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperlipidemia,
  • Fatty liver
  • High blood pressure,
  • Cancer,
  • Shorter life expectancy,
  • Heart problems,
  • Stroke, and
  • Sleep disorders.

These problems are chiefly because of the stress obesity puts on the various organs of the body. 

Important Facts about Obesity

There are a few interesting facts about obesity which may prove to be alarming signals for obese individuals and may even encourage them to delve into the cause of their obesity and help them adopt a healthy lifestyle to manage their health. 

  • Studies have shown that by losing 10% of body weight men and women have increased their libido significantly.
  • 35% of our calories come from our visits to the restaurants or junk food parlors.
  • Obesity among children is the most annoying epidemic in the 21st century.

An obese person carries about 100 to 150 billion fat cells as compared to a non- obese person who has 25 to 35 billion fat cells constituting the adipose tissues.

Obesity: Glossary

Terms such as Liposuction, Osteoarthritis, Hypertension, Hyperlipidemia, Very Low Calorie Diets have been expanded and explained properly.

Liposuction: It is also known as suction liposectomy. Liposuction is a cosmetic surgical procedure of fat removal from specific regions like thighs, buttocks, etc. by suction cannula.

Osteoarthritis: A progressive degenerative disorder of joints caused by loss of cartilage and development of bony spurs and at the margins of joints. It is also known as osteoarthrosis or degenerative joint disease (DJD)

Hypertension: elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90 mmHg – with a systolic pressure above 140 and a diastolic pressure above 90.

Hyperlipidemia: Elevated levels of any lipid in the plasma, consisting of hypertriglyceridemia, hypercholesterolemia, etc.

VLCDs: Very Low Calorie Diets consisting of fluids and about 800kcal/day.