Obesity is a condition that affects 42% of all Americans. It has grievous effects on overall bodily health as well as the deterioration of individual organs in the body, and it is responsible for several of the leading causes of mortality in the United States. With such an impactful illness so common in this country, it naturally begs questions in the public mind. We will go over the definition of obesity, the causes of obesity, as well as treatment options for obesity in this article.
What Is Obesity?
Obesity is a medical condition, sometimes considered a disease, in which a person has accumulated excess body fat to such an extent that it severely negatively impacts their health. Obesity is a major cause of disability and is connected to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and certain types of cancer. Obesity is most common in the Western world and tends to affect developed nations the most.
Causes of Obesity
Obesity can be caused by a variety of factors such as diet, physical activity level, endocrine disorders, genetic susceptibility, medications, mental disorders, or a combination of these factors. There are also exacerbating factors such as urbanization, economics, and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The root problem, however, is almost always as simple as eating more food energy than is expended, causing an energy imbalance resulting in body fat accumulation.
What is Considered Obese?
Obesity is generally defined as a function of a measurement called BMI or Body Mass Index. A BMI of 30 or more is usually considered obese, while a BMI of 25 or more is just considered overweight. Overweight is defined as above a healthy weight for a given height, but not to the health-damaging extent of obesity. It is important to keep in mind, however, that this standard is meant to be used on untrained individuals and athletes often have BMIs that seem to indicate that they’re overweight or obese because of the amount of muscle mass they carry, even though they are entirely healthy. This is one of the limitations of BMI as a measurement.
How Does Obesity Affect the Body?
The deleterious effects on the body of obesity, almost all of which are reversible once a return to a normal body fat level is achieved. This isn’t to understate the incredibly negative effects on the body that obesity has. We will go over, in detail, the effects of obesity on several vital organs and bodily systems below.
Heart and Circulatory System
Obesity can cause high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. This results in the weakening of critical arteries as well as plaque buildup in the arteries, obstructing them. It can also lead to coronary heart disease, early heart attack, and congestive heart failure. Obesity causes a host of cardiac issues.
The lungs can also be affected by obesity severely. This includes both conditions themselves as well as complications from other conditions. For example, the risk of complications during general anesthesia is far higher in obese individuals. Additionally, obesity puts you at a much greater risk of severe Covid-19. Obesity can also cause obstructive sleep apnea, in which a person stops breathing at points while asleep. There is also obesity hypoventilation syndrome, in which obese individuals do not breathe deeply or long enough, leading to chronically depleted oxygen levels in their bodies.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be precipitated by obesity, which is when excess adipose tissue (fat) buildup in the liver. This condition severely impairs the function of the liver and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Hepatic (liver) cirrhosis is when scar tissue as a result of liver disease impairs the function of the liver. Obesity and type 2 diabetes, which is itself often a consequence of obesity, are the most common comorbidities for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Chronic renal failure can be the result of obesity as well. This is an end-stage kidney disease in which there is a gradual loss of kidney function over a period of months. Chronic renal failure can be caused by diabetes or hypertension, both of which are exceedingly common with obesity. Total kidney failure can result in lifelong dialysis or the need for a kidney transplant.
Various skin conditions can also be caused by obesity, such as lymphedema. This is when the body’s lymphatic system is compromised, so localized swelling occurs. Obesity can also cause cellulitis and hirsutism. The variety of skin problems that exist in severely obese people is almost endless because they often have skin folds that they cannot reach, which accumulate various rashes, such as intertrigo, which go unnoticed until close examination by a doctor occurs.
Finally, obesity can have incredibly harmful effects on hormone levels. Low testosterone among obese men is extremely common, and this condition can cause depression, a higher risk of certain forms of cancer, and a whole host of other issues. Obesity can also cause PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and diabetes. Diabetes itself can result in everything from digit necrosis leading to amputation to blindness in severe cases. None of these conditions are things that you want to have. Not to mention, obesity increases the chances of birth defects or miscarriage in women.
Different Levels of Obesity
Obesity levels are divided into three classes. Class I obesity is a BMI of 30-34.9. Class II obesity is a BMI of 35-39.9, and Class III obesity is a BMI of 40 or more. These classes serve as a measure of the severity of the obesity being dealt with.
Best Ways to Address Obesity
There are a number of ways to address obesity, ranging from diet and exercise changes to therapy, medications, surgery, and laser lipolysis. All of these methods have been shown to be helpful in weight reduction and obesity management. The goal of all of these methods is to reduce body fat levels until the person using them is of a normal BMI.
Diet & Exercise
The traditional way of treating obesity is the most effective and obvious. Eating less and exercising more is a tried and proven way of losing body fat. Energy balance is the balance of how much energy, in terms of food, a person takes in and how much energy they expend through exercise and normal bodily function. If you have a negative energy balance, meaning you eat less than you expend each day, you will inevitably lose body fat. Though it can be very difficult, this is the most reliable way to treat obesity, and almost every other method of treatment depends on dietary and exercise changes to facilitate or maintain.
The root causes of obesity behaviorally can be psychological or even the result of mental illness. For this reason, therapy is a way to address obesity. There is a condition known as binge eating disorder, not to mention that many obese individuals have a problem with their relationship with food, often engaging in what is called “comfort eating.” These are very real causes of obesity, and proper psychological care in the form of therapy is a way to address them.
These are a class of anti-diabetes medications that serve to reduce appetite and facilitate greater weight loss hormonally. GLP-1 agonist medications such as semaglutide can reduce appetite in obese people by imitating GLP-1, the hormone responsible for feeling full and thereby making weight loss through calorie restriction easier for the individual. A person will be less hungry on this medication, though they will still have to adjust their eating and exercise habits to effectively lose body fat. However, unless the eating issue is purely psychological, this will make losing weight far easier.
This is a surgical procedure in which the stomach and intestines are physically manipulated to be smaller or absorb fewer nutrients, facilitating weight loss. This is typically a last resort as it is an invasive surgery, and it is reserved only for those whose obesity is already causing them adverse health effects. There are a variety of types of bariatric surgery. However, all of them require a future adjustment in diet and activity level in order to maintain the weight loss achieved by the procedure.
This is a revolutionary medical procedure pioneered by Emerald Laser. In this procedure, a laser is used to bore a hole in your individual fat cells, allowing the lipids to seep out of them and be safely excreted by the lymphatic system. This is an FDA-approved and reliable way to lose body fat that is less invasive than bariatric surgery. It does not require dietary changes to work, although it requires dietary changes to maintain the weight loss achieved. This is a good alternative to consider before bariatric surgery as it is non-invasive. Some of the advantages of Emerald Laser lipolysis include:
- Unlike surgery, it does not require incisions or anesthesia.
- It is painless.
- There are no known side effects.
- There is no downtime after a treatment. You can immediately resume normal activities.
- Sessions take less than 30 minutes, so you can schedule them before or after work, or even during your lunch break.
- Emerald Laser is the only medical laser approved by the FDA for individuals with BMIs over 30.
- It can be applied to virtually any part of the body where fat accumulates.
Frequently Asked Questions About Obesity
We are going to go over some of the most common questions about obesity relating to obesity’s effect on the body.
Does Obesity Lower Life Expectancy?
Absolutely. Obesity is the number two cause of premature, preventable deaths in the United States, second only to smoking. On average, obesity lowers life expectancy by ten years.
Can Obesity Be Cured?
The medical literature is hesitant to use the word “cure.” Having said that, it is absolutely possible to lose enough body fat so as to no longer qualify as obese. This can be exceedingly difficult, however, and for most, obesity is a chronic condition that affects their life. Although, again, recovery is absolutely possible, and many people have successfully overcome their obesity to lead normal healthy lives at normal body weight.
What Is Emotional Eating, And Does It Lead To Obesity?
Emotional eating is a more accurate version of the term “comfort eating” used above. Emotional eating refers to a psychological mechanism by which people eat in response to negative or positive emotions. Examples include “I feel so sad, so I’m going to drown my sorrows in cake,” as well as “I’m so happy, so I’m going to reward myself with cake.” These two examples are two sides of the same coin of emotional eating, as they are both examples of a person eating in response to their current emotional state and not hunger. Emotional eating can absolutely lead to obesity, and in many cases, it is directly connected.
What Causes Emotional Eating?
The causes of emotional eating are diverse and individual, and even the emotions which trigger the eating are highly individualized. Some are triggered to eat by sadness, others happiness, and still others boredom. There is no one answer as to what causes emotional eating in a person. When the habit of eating in response to some emotion becomes ingrained as a standard pattern that becomes emotional eating, and it can be very difficult to unlearn.
Are Obese People Happier?
Contrary to the popular stereotype, obese people are not, on average happier than nonobese people. In fact, obese people have a higher incidence of mental disorders that would render someone unhappy, such as depression or anxiety, than people of normal weight. The reasons for this are varied, although in some cases, obesity itself is the cause of depression or anxiety, as obesity often leads to poor self-image and poor self-esteem in obese individuals.
Laser Fat Reduction Near You
Laser lipolysis, pioneered by Emerald Laser, is a unique fat reduction opportunity. Contact your local provider to find out more!