obesity in adults

Obesity is a condition in which excess body fat affects a person’s health. It usually occurs because a person consumes too many calories (energy) and does not get enough physical activity. Obesity in adults increases the risk of numerous health problems, including cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.


  1. What is obesity in adults?
  2. The consequences of obesity in adults
  3. Causes of obesity in adults
  4. Diagnosis of obesity in adults
  5. Treatment of obesity in adults
  6. Questions and answers

What is obesity in adults?

If you regularly take in more calories (energy) than you burn, the extra energy is stored in your body as fat. You will start to gain weight and over time you will become obese.

In 2008, around 1.5 million adults worldwide were overweight, of whom more than 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.

The consequences of obesity in adults

If you are obese, you are at risk of developing health problems. Among the related diseases as a consequence of obesity in adults are:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • arterial hypertension
  • joint pain and osteoarthritis
  • coronary cardiopathy
  • some types of cancer
  • sleep problems, such as snoring and sleep apnea
  • Back pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • Women who are obese are more likely to have problems during and after pregnancy.
  • Being obese harms self-esteem and creates a negative body image.

Causes of obesity in adults

Eating an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise  are the main causes of obesity.

What eating habits cause obesity problems? Because of their high calorie content, fatty foods, sweets, and sugary drinks can cause weight gain if you eat them often. Portions that are too large can also increase your chances of becoming obese.

If you were obese  or overweight as a child, or if there is a history of obesity in your family, you are more likely to be obese as an adult. Genetic factors could play a role in it.

Occasionally, there are medical conditions and medications that can cause you to gain weight.

Diagnosis of obesity in adults

If you think you are overweight or obese, you should see a doctor. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and measure your weight and height to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which is used to determine if you are at a healthy weight for your height. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight by your height, and then dividing the result by your height again.

If you have a BMI of:

  • 25 to 29.9, you are classified as overweight
  • 30 to 39.9, you are classified as an obese person
  • over 40, you are classified as severely obese

These BMI levels are not suitable for everyone. For example, if you have a lot of muscle, your BMI may not be an accurate measure of whether or not you need to lose weight.

If your BMI is less than 35, your doctor may also measure your waist. Carrying excess weight around the waist (“apple shape”), and not in the hips or thighs (“pear shape”) means a higher risk of obesity-related diseases. If you are a man, your health may be at risk if your waist is 37 inches (94 cm) or more; if you are a woman if your waist is 80 cm (32 inches) or more.

In certain ethnic groups, for example people of Asian descent, waist size is a better measure of obesity-related disease risks than BMI.

Your doctor may measure your blood pressure and order a blood test to check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. If you have health problems related to obesity, your doctor will tell you what treatment you need.

Please note that the availability and use of these specific tests may vary from country to country.

Treatment of obesity in adults

Losing weight takes time and effort, so consider why you want to lose weight and whether you’re ready to make the changes.

If you’ve decided you’re ready to change, the best way to fix it and reach a healthy weight is to improve your diet and eating habits , while also increasing the amount of physical activity you get .

You are more likely to keep the pounds off if you lose weight gradually. This gives you time for new, healthier eating habits to become part of your daily life. It’s important to be realistic about the amount of weight you want to lose. It is recommended to lose 0.5 to 1 kg per week.

Eat a well-balanced diet

It is important that you eat a balanced diet and control portion sizes to maintain a healthy weight. The following eating habits will help you beat obesity as well as prevent it.

Base your meals on starchy foods, such as potatoes, pasta, bread, and rice. You should choose whole grain varieties where possible.

Try to limit the amount of foods that are high in fat and sugar , such as cakes, cookies, and butter. You should trim any visible fat from meat and choose lean options.

Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet so you can eat at least five servings a day . You could snack on fruit during the day and have a serving of vegetables with your evening meal.

Try to eat at least two servings of fish a week, one of which is fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, or fresh tuna.

Alcohol is high in calories and increases your appetite, so reducing how much you drink can help you control your weight. Water is the best drink. You can flavor the water with low-calorie juices or ice and lemon. Choose low-sugar beverages over high-calorie beverages.

Snacks are good, but choose healthy options such as fruit and low-fat yogurt. Snacking can help control your appetite so you can eat smaller portions at main meals.

No to the latest fad diets

A latest fad diet involves eating a very limited set of foods. These diets are not healthy and although short-term weight loss may be achieved with them, you will always gain the weight back as soon as you go back to your normal diet. There is no quick fix available.

commercial weight loss programs

There are several commercial weight loss programs that can help you control your weight. Weight loss clubs are useful for people who like group meetings and prefer weekly support.

There are a number of diet programs available online that can help you lose weight and keep it off. These may be more suitable if you are too busy to attend a group, but would like to benefit from social support through internet chats and online discussion forums.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about the options that would best fit your individual needs according to your lifestyle.

Physical activity: the best tool against obesity

You should aim to do some physical exercises every day. The recommended level of physical activity is 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise for a week in sessions of 10 minutes or more. You can do it for 30 minutes at least five days a week. Alternatively, you can do 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.

Moderate means your breathing is faster, your heart rate increases, and you feel like your body has warmed up. At this level of activity, your heart and lungs are being stimulated and will keep you in good shape. Vigorous-intensity activity is when breathing is much stronger and heart rate is increasing rapidly. It will be difficult for you to hold a conversation.

You may need professional supervision; and if you are not sure, ask a doctor for advice.

It is important that you find an activity that you enjoy, because it will help you stay motivated. If exercising alone seems boring, invite a friend to join you or join a local club.

Obesity Medications

If you’ve been eating a healthy diet and increasing your physical activity but still haven’t seen any improvement in your weight, your doctor may prescribe a medicine called Orlistat  to help you lose weight.

Orlistat prevents your body from absorbing all the fat in your food. It is recommended for people with a BMI of 30 or higher. If you have health problems associated with obesity, your GP may prescribe Orlistat if your BMI is 27 or higher.

Your doctor will discuss the possible benefits and limitations of the medication with you. You will also receive information on patient support programs. It is important that you have regular follow-up visits with your doctor.

Orlistat is also available without a prescription. You should talk to your pharmacist before the medicine is sold to you.

The availability and use of medicines may vary from country to country.

Surgery for obesity in adults

Sometimes surgery is recommended for obesity. The most common types of surgery are gastric bypass and gastric band surgery .

These surgeries involve reducing the size of the stomach so that you eat less, or bypassing part of the intestine so that your body absorbs less food. Surgery is recommended for people with obesity who:

  • have a BMI of 40 or more, or a BMI between 35 and 40 with a condition that might improve with weight loss (for example, diabetes or high blood pressure)
  • have tried other suitable means of losing weight, but have not been successful
  • are fit for surgery
  • commit to long-term treatment programs

If you have a BMI of 50 or more, surgery may be your first option. If your GP recommends surgery, they will refer you to a specialist. The specialist will discuss in greater detail the benefits and limitations of the surgery. After the operation is complete, you will work with a team of obesity specialists to help you make changes to your diet.

The availability and use of different treatments may vary from country to country. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.


Leave a Comment