Learn About Ailments | Obesity


Obesity can be defined as a condition in which excess fat has accumulated in the body. An individual is usually considered to be obese if they are more than 20 % above their ideal weight. Ideal weight takes into account a person's sex, age, height & build.

In This Article
Obesity Overview: What is Obesity?:
Other Reasons For Obesity: Symptoms of Obesity:
Diagnosing Obesity: Calculate your BMI:
Related Terms Common Misspellings

Obesity comes from the Latin 'obesus' meaning 'stout or fat' & 'Esus' which means 'to eat'.


Historically in some cultures a well fed or large physique was considered a symbol of high social status or wealth. However in the present day the problem of obesity is fast becoming one of the major health problems facing the Western World.


In the UK alone there are 30,000 death's due to obesity second only to smoking. It is estimated that obesity can shorten a person's life span by nine years. A UK health Survey estimates that In the UK over the last 25 years the rate of obesity has quadrupled. By 2010 there will be more than 12,000,000 obese adults & almost 1,000,000 obese children. Looking at the statisitcs for children alone  it shows that in the last 20 years obesity figures have tripled - comprising 10% of 6 year olds & 17% of 15 year olds.


There are thought to be a number of factors that have contributed to the near epidemic rise in obesity - one of which is known as the 'class factor'. American studies have shown that there are twice as many obese people of a poorer economic status than richer ones.This can be attributed to inferior levels of education in the poorer classes & the tendency to rely on cheaper fast foods (usually high in fat, sugar levels & calories & of poor nutritional value).


Clearly weight can have a significant impact on a person's status; another study found that women who marry into a higher socioeconomic status are usually thinner than women who marry into a lower status.

Obesity is basically when an individual carries too much body fat for their body frame.


The system for estimating how much body fat in relation to age/ sex is known as the Body Mass Index (BMI). (See section below on how this is calculated)


An important factor that affects weight loss or gain is the rate at which a person burns off calories (derived from food or drinks). This is known as the metabolic rate. The metabolic rate is usually at its peak during puberty & body growth then reaches a plateau during adulthood.


Quite simply if a person burns off more calories than they take onboard during the day then they will burn fat and lose weight. If the person takes more calories on board during the day than they burn then the body will store these calories as body fat. The reason our body's store excess calories is as a protection mechanism against starvation. This mechanism dates back 1000's of years when our intake of food was irregular & helped protect & nourish us during 'lean periods' where the body could call upon fat reserves to provide energy.


However today we generally take on board far more calories than we were originally 'designed' to. This is down to fast food, large portions & high calorie snacks etc.

There are a wide range of reasons & factors, which can add to the problem of obesity. These could be:


If a person suffers from obesity they may display some of the following symptoms:


Currently the most effective system for assessing how overweight a person is, is by calculating their Body Mass Index.


A person is considered obese if the their BMI (Body Mass Index) is greater than 30. This figure is calculated by dividing the weight (in kilograms) by the square of the height (in metres).


An overview of the BMI figures are as follows:

BMI 18.5 or less            Under weight

BMI 18.5 - 24.9              Normal Weight

BMI 25.0 - 29.9              Overweight

BMI 30.0 - 39.9              Obeses

BMI 40.0 +                    Morbidly Obese


There are other ways of calculating obesity or the proportional perecentage of body fat such as the skinfold test & the bioelectrical impedance analysis.


The skinfold test works by pinching skin on certain areas of the body & exactly measuring the thickness to work out the amount of fat present.


Bioelectrical impedance analysis uses a simple electrical device known as a body fat meter. It works by passing an electrical current through the skin & analysing the resisitance which in turn dictates the amount of body tissue/ water & fat present.

To calculate your BMI use the NHS Direct calculator & CLICK HERE.


Generally (as you will see from the table above) an ideal BMI for most people is between 20 & 25.

Obecity, Obesitey, Obesity, Obessity

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