Obesity and its risks

Everyware one turns, one is faced with articles, commercials, infomercials and web sites selling products to help dieting and lower one's weight. Likewise, there are organizations and individuals that provide measured quantities of food, social support groups, courses in hypnosis, and other techniques to lower weight. Typing "diet weight loss" into Google brings up 8.5 million "hits" at the time of writing this page. From all of this, one would infer that being overweight is seriously detrimental to your health. We would like to know "how serious is it" - how are risks for disease and mortality impacted by being overweight.

First we need to define "overweight". Obviously, just measuring weight is insufficient - a tall person will weigh more than a short person, without having any extra body fat. A number call the "Body Mass Index" (BMI) is a better determination of obesity - it adjusts for different heights and weights, by dividing the weight (in Kilograms) by the square of the height (in meters). A National Institute of Health web site provides a calculator if you would like to calculate your BMI. It also lists the different categories:

  • Normal weight = 18.5-24.9

  • Overweight = 25-29.9

  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

Even BMI does not provide complete information on obesity. A person with a broad build might have the same BMI as a person with a narrower build but a fatter waist line. Some of the research into obesity effects takes both the BMI and the shape of the waistline into account.

We will consider two different aspects of obesity. The first - the impact of obesity on mortality, and the second - the impact of obesity on day-to-day health.

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Last Modification - Update - August 29, 2009