Harmful effects due to obesity


Harmful effects due to obesity

According to WHO, obesity and overweight are defined as extra or abnormal fat accumulation in the body that may impair an individual's health.

Body mass index (BMI) is the simple index used to classify obesity and overweight in adults. BMI is measured by dividing the person's body weight in kgs by the square of the person's height in meters (kg/m2).

For adults, overweight and obesity are defined as follows:

  • Overweight is a BMI equal to or greater than 25.
  • Obesity is a BMI equal to or greater than 30.

Causes of obesity

The primary cause of overweight and obesity is an abnormal energy imbalance between consumed and spent calories. This imbalance occurs when-

  • Intake of energy-dense food, which is high in sugar and fat levels
  • Increasing sedentary nature of many works like increasing urbanisation and changes in the mode of transportation.
  • Decreased physical activity.

A combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors also causes obesity. Genetic factors can influence metabolism and how the body stores and burns fat. Environmental factors, like access to unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles, can also contribute to obesity. Finally, behavioural factors, such as eating too much and not getting enough physical activity, are also significant contributors.

Obesity treatment usually involves a combination of diet and exercise, lifestyle modification, and sometimes medication or surgery. Surgery can also be a therapy option, but it is not open to everyone.

Adverse effects of obesity on health

Obesity is a major global public health problem. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), about 2 billion adults worldwide are overweight; of these, over 650 million are obese.

Obesity can have many adverse effects on your health, they are as follows:

Increased risk of heart disease

Obesity can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases due to an increase in cholesterol levels can result in high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Accumulation of cholesterol in the blood vessels decreases the blood flow to the heart resulting in a heart attack.


Abnormal accumulation of fat plaques or clots in the cranial arteries may get affected, leading to a reduction in blood and oxygen supply to the brain. This can cause stroke and its complications. The complications of stroke include physical disability, language and speech impairment, and weakened or paralysed muscles.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Obesity is one of the significant risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes in any individual. Excess body fat may cause insulin resistance, leading to increased blood sugar levels and, ultimately, diabetes.

Joint problems

Obesity can strain your joints, especially on weight-bearing joints like knee and hip joints. The strain on the joints for a prolonged period could cause joint pain and osteoarthritis.

Sleep apnea

This is a common condition where breathing is interrupted while sleeping, resulting in poor sleep quality and fatigue. Obese individuals are more likely to develop sleep apnea compared to non-obese individuals. This is because, in obese people, there is excess fat present around their necks, leading to airway obstruction. Smaller airways can cause snoring and difficulty in breathing during sleep.

Liver disease

People with obesity are prone to fat accumulation around the liver, called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is asymptomatic in the initial stages, but the fat accumulation around the liver can change the liver's texture and functioning, leading to liver failure.


Obese individuals had a greater risk of developing gallstones, especially in the case of women. Researchers have discovered that obese people can have elevated levels of cholesterol in their bile, which can cause gallstones.

Certain cancers

Many studies suggested that obesity and overweight can increase the risk of certain cancers, including breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer.

Mental health issues

Obesity can also have adverse effects on mental health. Obese individuals are more prone to psychiatric illnesses, including depression and low self-esteem.

Reproductive problems

In women, obesity can lead to menstrual irregularities, infertility, and complications during pregnancy. In men, obesity can lower testosterone levels and reduce fertility.

Pregnancy complications

Pregnant women who are obese are at higher risk of complications during pregnancy like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, low birth weight, miscarriages, and stillbirths.

Overall, obesity can significantly increase your risk of developing many serious health problems. Hence prevent obesity by following healthy lifestyle habits and increasing physical activity. Weight loss can improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing obesity-related health problems.

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