What is Obesity?
Obesity is when an individual has too much body fat and they are eating more than their body can effectively process. A person is generally considered obese if their body weight is 20% or greater than a normal weight, which is primarily based on age and height. An individual is typically diagnosed as overweight if their BMI (body mass index) is between 25 and 29.9 and a person is considered obese if their BMI is over 30. The term “morbidly obese” or “morbid obesity” is usually applied to individuals who are 50%-100% over their normal weight, has a BMI of 40 or higher or are severely overweight to the extent that it is majorly affecting their general health.
Causes of Obesity:
The causes of obesity are primarily due to overeating and not exercising sufficiently. However, other factors can affect a person’s chances of becoming obese. One of these factors is age, as we get older our metabolism gradually slows down, which can make maintaining a healthy weight more challenging. People in their 40s and 50s often can’t eat the same amount as they did in their 20s without putting on weight, and as a result some people may become obese from not carefully monitoring their food intake as they get older. Another factor is gender, as statistically women are more likely to be overweight than men. Men generally have a faster metabolic rate than women and so can eat more than women without putting on excess weight. Women can also be prone to obesity both during and after menopause, as the metabolic rate decreases for many women during this period.
Symptoms of Obesity:
A tell-tale symptom of obesity is being severely overweight. Obesity effects are to be taken very seriously. Obese people may suffer from additional health conditions due to their illness, such as a risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Test and Diagnosis: Obesity can be tested and diagnosed through calculating an individual’s BMI. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. Obesity is commonly diagnosed when a BMI is 30 or over.
Treatment and Drugs for Obesity:
Treatment for obesity consists of a doctor advising their obese patient to reduce their calorie intake and exercise more frequently. A doctor may also advise psychological treatment to deal with emotional issues that may be behind overeating. If a patient embraces a healthy diet and new exercise regime and doesn’t see significantly positive results, their doctor then may prescribe weight loss medications and even weight loss surgery. Some of the most common weight loss medications include:
• Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia) – This weight-loss medication is a combination drug approved by the FDA. Qsymia combines phentermine, a weight-loss drug with topiramate, a medication that’s usually used to control seizures. A doctor will typically monitor their patients weight loss results while taking this drug. If the patient doesn’t lose at least 3% of their body weight within the initial 12 weeks of taking the drug, the doctor may advise that the patient stops taking the drug or increase its dosage.
Side effects of taking Qsymia include an increased heart rate, insomnia, dizziness and insomnia. Rare additional side effects include suicidal thoughts, problems with memory or comprehension and developing serious sleep disorders. Qsymia isn’t advised for pregnant women as it can increase the chance of birth defects.
• Lorcaserin (Belviq) – Lorcaserin is an FDA approved weight loss medication for adults. This prescription drug alters brain chemicals to make a patient feel full from eating more quickly. This can encourage a patient to eat less food and reduce their daily calorie intake, which can aid in achieving weight loss. As with other weight loss drugs, a doctor will usually monitor their patient very carefully while they take this medication, and may stop or increase its dosage if a 5% weight loss isn’t achieved within the first 12 weeks of taking this drug.
Side effects for lorcaserin include headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dry mouth and constipation. Rare side effects include serotonin imbalance, suicidal thoughts, psychiatric problems and memory problems. Pregnant women should not take this drug.
• Orlistat (Xenical) – Orlistat is an FDA approved weight loss medication for adults and children aged 12 and over. This medication helps aid weight loss by blocking fat from digesting and absorption in the intestines and stomach. Users of this drug can usually expect to lose between 5 and 7 more lbs over a one or two year period than if they lost weight purely by exercising and reducing their calorie intake.
Side effects of orlistat include frequent bowel movements, gas and diarrhea.
Popular Weight Loss Surgeries Include:
• Gastric Bypass Surgery – Gastric bypass surgery can help a patient achieve dramatic weight loss. The doctor will create a small pouch at the top of the patient’s stomach and then the small intestine is cut and connected to the new pouch. Once the surgery is completed, food and drink should go directly to the small pouch, which should help the patient feel full more quickly than previously when their entire stomach was being used to absorb food and drink.
Gastric bypass surgery is generally only performed on patients who are severely obese, usually with a BMI of 40 or over. In some cases this surgery is performed on obese patients with lower BMI rates but that have health complications as a result of their obesity – such as diabetes and high blood pressure. There are some known side effects that can occur after undergoing this surgery. Known side effects include ulcers, gallstones, malnutrition and stomach perforation.
• Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch – Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch is a high risk weight loss surgery procedure which is usually only used for patients who are obese to the extent that it is seriously negatively affecting their health. This procedure involves removing part of the stomach so that patients will be able to feel fuller and absorb less fat when eating and drinking. Patients that undergo this surgery must take mineral and vitamin supplements for the rest of their lives in order to not suffer from major health complications as a result of this surgical procedure.
Side effects of undergoing biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch include an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, diarrhea, excessive gas and malnutrition.
• Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding – Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding or lap band surgery is another form of weight loss restrictive surgery. This type of surgery involves placing an adjustable silicone band around the upper section of the stomach. The pressure of the silicone band allows the stomach size to shrink, which in turn should enable the patient to feel fuller on less food and more quickly than prior to the surgery.
Gastric banding is considered one of the lesser invasive types of weight loss surgeries as the band is adjustable and can be removed. However, there are still some risks and side effects associated with lap band surgery. Common risks and side effects include nausea and vomiting and the risk of death as a result of lap band surgery is roughly one in every two thousand.
Chance of Reoccurrence: The chance of reoccurrence of obesity is usually up to the individual’s lifestyle choices. In many cases if a patient makes radical changes to their diet and exercise or undergoes a weight loss surgery (such as the types illustrated above) they should not experience a reoccurrence of obesity if they strive to live a healthier lifestyle for the rest of their lives. However, if an individual doesn’t take long term action to prevent weight gain they may become obese again. In addition, some health problems can increase an individual’s chances of gaining weight, such as hormonal diseases, which could lead to an individual’s obesity reoccurring.
Prevention: Obesity prevention is possible by following a healthy, calorie controlled diet and exercising on a regular basis. Regularly visiting the doctor is also very important, as doctors can check to see how healthy their patient’s weight is and if there is need for concern.
Resources: Further information on obesity can be found at the following websites: