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Facts & Stats

Obesity is a universal issue affecting individuals in all areas of the world. Obesity is a serious medical condition in which individuals exhibit an imbalance between caloric intake and energy expenditure. The result is a high percentage of body fat, causing several health risks and complications. The diagnosis of obesity is made by calculating Body Mass Index (BMI) or through other compositional testing. A calculated BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher is determined to be clinically obese, while a BMI of 25-29 kg/m2 is defined as overweight1. Additional methods of testing for obesity include waist circumference measurement and hydrostatic body fat testing2,3.  Statistically, obesity affects more individuals of lower socioeconomic status, has a higher prevalence in minority groups, and affects more women than men4. The growing number of obese individuals indicates the prevalence of the medical condition and the need to address issues surrounding weight gain.

The added weight and high percentage of body fat caused by obesity produces several health issues. These issues include hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, increased blood pressure, and cancers of the colon, intestines, and other areas 5,6,7. A decrease in body weight and body fat will reduce the risk of developing these disorders and problems.

Due the decrease in childhood physical activity and the high percentage of overweight youth who develop future health problems, childhood obesity is becoming a greater health concern both in the United States and around the world. Obese children have the same risks of developing health problems as obese adults8. Overweight children have a higher risk of developing Type-II diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes), a chronic illness9 than non-obese children. Non-nutritious meals, increased intake of fat and sugar, and sedentary lifestyle choices, such as playing video games, have played into the rise of childhood obesity.

Obesity is a biologically driven state with powerful urges to satisfy hunger and consume food10. Although genetics are involved in the onset of obesity, genetics do not account for the entire role. Obesity is influenced by both genetics and environment. A genetic predisposition to obesity, as determined by familial history, can be fostered by the environment and lifestyle surrounding an individual11. Genotype-environment interactions play a role in obesity, especially within a “toxic” environment12. High amounts of energy-dense food, fast food, and high exposure to advertisements for products contribute to a “toxic” environment13. A genetic predisposition to obesity can increase the likelihood of developing the condition in this type of environment.

Treatments for obesity range from non-invasive to surgical.  An overall change in diet and exercise is an essential step to creating a healthy lifestyle.  Modifying physical activity and altering meal components serve as the essential start to combating obesity.  Beyond these initial changes, treatment for obesity is also available through therapeutic, pharmacological, and surgical means.  Psychotherapy may be especially helpful for individuals suffering from low self-esteem, depression, or other psychological difficulties14.  Several drugs have been released and many more are in the testing phase15.  In addition, gastric bypass surgery offers treatment through invasive means16.  Surgical interventions are normally reserved for severe cases in which individuals are determined to be morbidly obese.  Individuals often develop interdisciplinary patterns of treatment to combat obesity17.

By the Numbers

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Development of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPA) [1], Overweight and Obesity, November 2007.
2 S.B. Racette, S.S. Deusinger, & R.H. Deusinger, Obesity: Overview of Prevalence, Etiology, and Treatment, Physical Therapy, Volume 83, pp. 276 288, 2003.
3 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) [2], National Institutes of Health (NIH), Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, 1998.
4 G.D. Foster, Obesity: Responding to the Global Epidemic, Journal of Consulting and Clinical psychology, Volume 70, Issue 3. pp. 510-525, 2002.
5 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) [2], National Institutes of Health (NIH), Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, 1998.
6 S.B. Racette, S.S. Deusinger, & R.H. Deusinger, Obesity: Overview of Prevalence, Etiology, and Treatment, Physical Therapy, Volume 83, pp. 276 288, 2003.
7 G.D. Foster, Obesity: Responding to the Global Epidemic, Journal of Consulting and Clinical psychology, Volume 70, Issue 3. pp. 510-525, 2002.
8 M.G. Harper, Childhood Obesity: Strategies for Prevention, Family Community Health, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp. 288-298, 2006.
9 S.B. Racette, S.S. Deusinger, & R.H. Deusinger, Obesity: Overview of Prevalence, Etiology, and Treatment, Physical Therapy, Volume 83, pp. 276 288, 2003.
10 I.S. Farooqi & S. O’Rahilly, Genetic factors in human obesity. The International Association for the Study of Obesity, Obesity Reviews, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp. 37-40, 2007.
11 G.D. Foster, Obesity: Responding to the Global Epidemic, Journal of Consulting and Clinical psychology, Volume 70, Issue 3. pp. 510-525, 2002.
12 S.B. Racette, S.S. Deusinger, & R.H. Deusinger, Obesity: Overview of Prevalence, Etiology, and Treatment, Physical Therapy, Volume 83, pp. 276 288, 2003.
13-14 G.D. Foster, Obesity: Responding to the Global Epidemic, Journal of Consulting and Clinical psychology, Volume 70, Issue 3. pp. 510-525, 2002.
15 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [3], Orlistat and Meridia, 1999 and 2007.
16 S.B. Racette, S.S. Deusinger, & R.H. Deusinger, Obesity: Overview of Prevalence, Etiology, and Treatment, Physical Therapy, Volume 83, pp. 276 288, 2003.
17 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) [4], National Institute of Health (NIH), Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, 1998.
18 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [1], Development of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPA), Featured Data and Statistics: Obesity in Adults, BFSS, 2007, July 2008.
19-20 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [1], Prevalence of Obesity in the United States, 2009-2010 (January 2012)
21 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [5]. Adult Obesity Facts (August 2012).