Obesity – Is it a disease?


What WHO says about obesity?

According to the World Health Organisation, obesity is “an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health”, so although obesity is not a disease, it certainly may lead to diseases if not brought under control.

The official figures

Overweight and obesity are closely related. In fact, WHO categorises individuals with BMI of 30 or more as obese. BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight. It is interesting to note that more people die because of being overweight than being underweight. By estimates drawn in 2014, over 1.9 billion adults were overweight and 600 million were obese.

Common problems of being obese

The stigma and weight-based prejudice obese individuals face is nothing new. In 2001, researchers found through self-reported studies that obese individuals were target of bad humor and insulting remarks at workplaces, educational institutions and even at healthcare establishments.

The stigma is a result of negative media and literature that we consume or consumed in the past. From kindergarten poems that ridicule egg-shaped man who could not be put together by all the king’s men and horses, to portrayal of overweight people in comic roles, we are constantly given the impression that obese is closely related to lazy, stupid, angry and incompetent among other negative traits.

Quick Summary of What You Should Know

doctorSeek doctor's advise, but self-treatable
diagnosisTelltale signs are clear evidence of obesity
ageAge group 41- 60+ mostly affected
injectionCan lead to other health problems

What causes obesity?

The imbalance of calorie intake and usage leads to obesity. Simply said, if you are eating more calories than your body burns up during the day, there will be a surplus that the body will store as fat. This may either be caused by your sudden change in eating habits or because of the many reasons that affect millions worldwide. Here are some that may explain your increasing BMI:

  • Change in mode of transportation
  • Eating high fat, processed foods
  • Giving up physical exercise and adopting a sedentary lifestyle
  • Weight gain side-effects of other drugs
  • If you are an Asian, then James V. Neel’s ‘Thrifty Gene’ hypothesis may explain it. (More on that later, stay tuned!)

How to deal with obesity at home?

Since obesity is not a disease, you need not necessarily visit a doctor for diagnosis or treatment. We would however advise you to take proactive steps to reduce your BMI to healthy levels. Here are a few steps:

  1. Reduce intake of sugars and high saturated fatty products
  2. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts which contain good fats.
  3. Make exercise a compulsory part of your daily life. An adult needs at least 30 minutes of cardio workout everyday. Talk to a fitness trainer for more information on what works best for you.
quick-tipPrevention is better than cure! Watch your calorie intake and workout regularly to maintain perfect balance and ideal BMI


Relevant Topics on L&HM
Watch this space for more L&HM articles on Obesity.
Further Reading (external sources)
Puhl, R. M. and Heuer, C. A. (2009), The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update. Obesity, 17: 941–964. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.636 US National Library of Medicine Archives