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Obesity Information

  • Obesity is a condition in which the natural energy reserve, stored in the fatty tissue of humans and mammals is increased to a point where it is thought to be a significant risk factor in certain health conditions, leading to increased mortality. Obesity is a condition that develops from the interaction of individual biology and the environment. Excessive body weight has been shown to correlate with various important diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, sleep apnea, stroke, and osteoarthritis. Obesity is both an individual clinical condition and, recently, a serious public health problem...
  • When food energy intake exceeds energy expenditure, fat cells (and to a lesser extent muscle and liver cells) throughout the body take in the energy and store it as fat. In its simplest conception, therefore, obesity is only made possible when the lifetime energy intake exceeds lifetime energy expenditure by more than it does for individuals of "normal weight."

    As with many medical conditions, the caloric imbalance that results in obesity often develops from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Polymorphisms in various genes controlling appetite, metabolism, and adipokine release predispose to obesity, but the condition requires availability of sufficient calories, and possibly other factors, to develop fully. Various genetic abnormalities that predispose to obesity have been identified (such as Prader-Willi syndrome and leptin receptor mutations), but known single-locus mutations have been found in only about 5% of obese individuals. While it is thought that a large proportion of the causative genes are still to be identified, much obesity is likely the result of interactions between multiple genes, and non-genetic factors are likely also important.

    Some eating disorders are associated with obesity, especially binge eating disorder (BED). As the name indicates, patients with this disorder are prone to overeat, often in binges. A proposed mechanism is that the eating serves to reduce anxiety, and some parallels with substance abuse can be drawn. An important additional factor is that BED patients often lack the ability to recognize hunger and satiety, something that is normally learned in childhood. Learning theory suggests that early childhood conceptions may lead to an association between food and a calm mental state.

    The mainstay of treatment for obesity is an energy-limited diet and increased exercise. In studies, diet and exercise programs have consistently produced an average weight loss of approximately 8% of total body mass on average (excluding study drop-outs). While not all dieters will be satisfied with this outcome, studies have shown that a loss of as little as 5% of body mass can create enormous health benefits.

    A more intractable therapeutic problem appears to be weight loss maintenance. Of dieters who manage to lose 10% or more of their body mass in studies, 80-95% will regain that weight within two to five years. It appears that the homeostatic mechanisms regulating body weight are very robust (see leptin, for example), and vigorously defend against weight loss. Much important research is now being devoted to determining what factors can improve the currently dismal weight loss maintenance rates.

  • Click to expand

View Top Obesity Answers at sharecare.com

Health Blogs

Two new studies are shedding light on just how certain weight-loss surgeries can help patients lose weight and even potentially reverse diabetes. The first study showed that the vast majority of obese patients with diabetes who ... Read More »
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a major overhaul for nutrition labels that appear on food packaging, highlighting calorie counts and changing serving sizes to more closely match what Americans actually consume. This will be the first significant change for nutrition labels since the early 1990s, when they were first ... Read More »
Next time you find yourself at a party or wandering the snack aisle at your local grocery store, skip the chips and dip and head for the nuts. A handful of nearly any variety – from walnuts to pistachios – can arm you against chronic disease and add years to your life. In fact, the ... Read More »

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