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Obesity: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

Obesity is a disorder involving an excess amount of fat in the body, which increases the risk of various health related problems. If the body weight is 20% higher than the normal, the person is considered to be obese. It is more common in women than in men. Obesity is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, with an increasing number of adults and children among population.


What is Obesity?

It is a medical condition in which excess body fat gets accumulated below the skin and around the visceral organs. It can cause various other diseases and conditions, particularly heart diseases (cardiovascular diseases), type 2 diabetes, cancers (breast and colon), arthritis, depression and sleeping disorder.

What are the Causes of Obesity?

Intake of more calories, fats and sugars can lead to obesity. It is generally caused by eating too much and not doing any physical activity. Physical activity or exercise burns off the excess energy obtained through diet. If it didn’t burn, much of the surplus energy gets stored in the body as fat, leading to obesity.

Specific causes of obesity include:

  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Poor diet and not enough sleep
  • Genetic factors (genes)
  • Stress, anxiety and feeling sad
  • Menopause: 5-7 kg of weight gain
  • Weight gain during pregnancy
  • Quitting smoking: 2-5 kg of weight gain in first 6 months after quitting

Medical conditions which cause obesity include:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOs) – Hormonal imbalance in females can cause obesity.

Osteoarthritis – Joint pains, which make the physical activity difficult.

Hypothyroidism – Deficiency in production of thyroid hormones, can lead to weight gain.

Cushing’s syndrome – Production of cortisol hormone in the body in excess.

Prader- wili syndrome: A genetic disorder in newborn that causes obesity and intellectual disability.

Medicines such as birth control pills, antidepressants and antipsychotics can also cause weight gain.

What are the Symptoms of Obesity?

Obesity may develop following symptoms that affect our daily life:

  • Breathlessness (shortness of breath)
  • Snoring (breathing heavily during sleep)
  • Excess sweating
  • Back and joint pain
  • Inactive physical activity
  • Low confidence
  • Depression (serious mood disorder)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Overeating
  • High blood pressure and high level of cholesterol

What are the Risk Factors of Obesity?

Factors can be genetic, environmental and psychological, which increase a person’s risk for obesity.

Genetic Factors: Some genes, which are responsible for causing obesity, are inherited from parents.

Environmental Factors: Our surroundings can influence us much, that we get adapted to any habit like poor eating habits, improper lifestyle and lack of physical activity. If a proper diet rich in nutrients is consumed, it avoids many health problems and keeps us healthy. Exercise is the key to healthy lifestyle, as many health-related issues can be solved by regular exercise and physical activity. If these two things i.e., diet and physical exercise are implemented in life, then obesity and other conditions can be avoided.

Psychological Factors: Depression can cause obesity. Some people have a habit of eating too much for emotional comfort, which can cause obesity.

Other Factors:

Quitting smoking can cause weight gain by 2-5 kgs in first 6 months after quitting.

Medications such as steroids can put a person at a greater risk of obesity.

What are the Complications of Obesity?

Excess fat in the body, can put a person at risk for various health problems, such as:

  • Type-2 diabetes (insulin independent diabetes)
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol level
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancers (breast and colon)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Infertility
  • Breathing problems
  • Sleeplessness (unable to sleep properly)

How Can Obesity be diagnosed?

It is diagnosed by checking BMI of an individual. Body mass index (BMI) is a calculation of person’s weight in relation to height. If the BMI is noted as 30 or more, it is a clear indication of obesity.

Measures for body fat include: Thickness of skin- fold and waist to hip comparison.

Other tests include:

  • Blood Test- For examination of cholesterol and glucose level
  • Screening Tests- Computed tomography (CT), ultrasound and MRI
  • Liver Function Test
  • Thyroid test (TSH)
  • Echocardiogram (heart functioning test)
  • Diabetes screening test

What is the Treatment for Obesity?

Obesity can be managed or treated by using different methods, which include:

Lifestyle changes:

Dieting: Food rich in nutrients should be consumed, which helps in losing weight.

Physical Exercise: A well-planned and structured exercise daily, can build up strength, metabolism and helps in burning of excess fat in the body.

Behaviour changes:

Counselling and social support can help, to overcome depression and overeating habit.


Medicines are prescribed only, if other methods of weight loss are not working and if BMI is 27 or more. Medicines either prevent, fat absorption or appetite suppression. Side effects include bowel urgency and frequent bowel movement.


It is suitable for individuals having BMI of 35-40 or more. Surgical options include:

Gastric Sleeve (vertical sleeve gastrectomy): In this method, 80% of stomach is removed.

Gastric Bypass Surgery: A small pouch is cut in the stomach, which shrinks its size and limits the intake of more food and its absorption.

Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (LAGB): A band is placed around the upper part of stomach to create a small pouch, which holds food. The band limits the food intake.

Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch: In this procedure, portions of stomach are removed. A small pouch is created, which remains in connection with final segment of small intestine and bypasses the upper portion of small intestine.

What are the Preventive Methods for Obesity?

Prevention methods for obesity are as follows:

  • Good lifestyle choice
  • Moderate exercise daily for 20-30 min
  • Intake of nutritious food
  • Moderate consumption of fats and calories in food
  • Medications to reduce appetite and fat absorption
  • Gastric balloon surgery- A device is placed temporarily in stomach to reduce weight

News on Obesity

Long-Term Exposure to Honking Can Cause Obesity

– 21st Nov 2018

Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health have recently discovered that long-term exposure to honking in traffic can cause obesity. In fact, according to the researchers, an increased exposure to even 10 dB mean loud traffic noise, can increase your obesity by nearly 17%.

The researchers have hypothesized that even momentary exposure to loud noises can cause stress which in turn triggers several reactions like lack of sleep, binge eating, craving junk food, and so on. Researchers believe that long-term exposure to such loud noises can cause permanent alterations to a person’s psychology, making them more stressed, even leading to the development of some mood disorders, which are then coupled with irregular or disturbed sleep, unhealthy eating habits, chronic fatigue and so on.

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