Overweight and Obesity

Dr. Family Talks about Overweight and Obesity

Being obese or overweight is currently the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States and may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death.

“Overweight” specifically refers to an excessive amount of body weight that may come from muscles, bone, adipose (fat) tissue, and water.  “Obesity” specifically refers to an excessive amount of adipose tissue (fat).

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in New York State and across the nation. While many epidemics can be defeated with a pill or a vaccine, obesity requires changes in behavior as well as access to affordable, nutritious foods and opportunities for physical activity in the places where people live, learn, eat, shop, work and play.

Essentially, overweight and obesity result from energy imbalance. The body needs a certain amount of energy (calories) from food to sustain basic life functions. Body weight is maintained when the number of calories eaten equals the number of calories the body expends, or “burns.” When more calories are consumed than burned, energy balance is tipped toward weight gain, overweight, and obesity. Genetic, environmental, behavioral, and socioeconomic factors can all lead to overweight and obesity

Overweight and obesity are risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other health problems. Since there is no single cause of all overweight and obesity, there is no single way to prevent or treat overweight and obesity that will help everyone. Treatment may include a combination of diet, exercise, behavior modification, and sometimes weight-loss drugs. In some cases of extreme obesity, bariatric surgery may be recommended.

Increasingly, many of these diseases, previously associated only with adulthood, are also being seen in overweight and obese children. Along with the risks for life-shortening chronic diseases, being overweight in a society that stigmatizes this condition contributes to poor mental health associated with serious shame, self-blame, low self-esteem and depression.

Overweight and obesity are largely preventable by limiting energy intake from total fats; increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and nuts (see “Eating Clean“); engaging in regular physical activity; limiting the intake of sugars; and by maintaining an energy balance and a healthy weight.

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