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There are many experts who point out that obesity is one of the main diseases of the 21st century , which affects both adults and children. It is estimated that since 1975 obesity has tripled globally. In 2016, the latest year for which data is available, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, of which 650 were obese; figures that in relative terms represent 39 and 13 percent of the world population respectively.

Regarding children, in 2016, about 41 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese. Alarming figures that lead us to wonder what the causes of obesity are, and what consequences this disease has.

What is overweight and obesity?

There are those who use overweight and obesity as synonyms. However, the truth is that they are different concepts, each with its own characteristics.

Being overweight implies that your body weight is above what is considered normal and healthy based on data such as height, gender or age, among others. However, obesity is a physical condition in which there is an excessive accumulation of body fat . Thus, an overweight person has a weight above normal, but does not have to have accumulated fat in his body.

Both overweight and obesity are defined by the Body Mass Index. It is an indicator that relates weight and height.

  • Adults: in the case of adults, the World Health Organization indicates that overweight occurs when the BMI is equal to or greater than 25. Meanwhile, an adult suffers from obesity when their BMI is equal to or greater than 30.
  • Children under five years of age: in the case of the youngest, a child is said to be overloaded when their BMI is two standard deviations above the established median, according to the WHO Child Growth Standards. Regarding obesity, children under five years of age suffer when their BMI is three standard deviations above the established median.
  • Children between the ages of five and nineteen: Among children and adolescents, they are considered overweight when their BMI is more than one standard deviation above the median established by the World Health Organization. Obesity occurs when the BMI is greater than two standard deviations above the established median.

Types of obesity

There are two types of obesity: central and peripheral . The first one is more serious, and its consequences can be fatal to health in the medium and long term. Central obesity, as its name suggests, is characterized by the location of fat in the trunk; One of the main consequences of this disorder is type 2 diabetes . As for peripheral obesity, fat accumulates from the waist down, thus producing serious overload problems in joints such as the knees.

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is an increasingly common disease in our society. It involves a great danger since it conditions a great cardiovascular risk in adulthood , as well as other complications.

Thus, when obesity occurs in children under five years of age and extends over a long period of time, the risk of suffering from certain cardiovascular diseases in adulthood is very high. That is why it is so important to prevent obesity in children, promoting physical exercise and a healthy and balanced diet.

Morbid obesity

Currently, there are very many people who suffer from morbid obesity, especially in Western countries. There are different treatment options for it, such as vertical gastroplasty, adjustable gastric band gastroplasty or gastric bypass. The main objective pursued by all these techniques is to reduce the size of the stomach so that in this way the amount of food eaten is reduced.

Causes of obesity

There is a large selection of causes that can greatly promote weight gain, such as lack of physical exercise or inadequate diet.


Currently, there is an increasingly general trend towards the consumption of precooked and processed foods , which have a high caloric level and contain a large amount of fats and sugars that are not healthy for the body at all.

Physical exercise

Another cause that leads to obesity is sedentary lifestyle . In the XXI century, more and more people whose work is completely sedentary, who spend their working day sitting in front of a computer. Thus, if you do not do any type of physical exercise in your free time, weight gain is inevitable.

When it comes to exercising, the most important thing is that it be done consistently. That is, it is much more beneficial to walk every day for fifteen minutes than to do it one or two days a week for two hours.


Of course, lifestyle has a significant influence on obesity, which is directly related to physical exercise and diet. In the 21st century society, the consumption of “junk food” is increasingly widespread due to a wide range of factors: advertising that encourages users to consume this type of food, lack of time to cook homemade dishes due to lack of reconciliation of personal and professional life …


Of course, genetics play a key role in obesity. And it is that genes are in many cases responsible for weight gain, thus increasing the chances that a certain person is obese.

It is worth noting that genes simply cause obesity ; However, external factors such as a poor diet or lack of physical exercise contribute directly to it.


There are certain diseases that promote obesity.

  • Hypothyroidism: it is known as such a disease characterized by a decrease in the activity carried out by the thyroid gland; thus, the secretion of thyroid hormones decreases. A disorder that results in a large selection of symptoms such as fatigue, extreme sensitivity to cold and, in the case of women, disorders in their menstrual periods.
  • Cushing syndrome: also known as hypercortisolism, it is a medical disorder caused by the increase in the hormone cortisol. One of the most common symptoms is upper body obesity. Other signs also appear such as severe fatigue, muscle weakness, increased blood sugar levels, and bruising for no apparent reason.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome : a disease that affects women and is characterized by an imbalance of sex hormones. A disorder that can lead to changes in the menstrual cycle, as well as difficulties in getting pregnant, and obesity.
You may also be interested in:   Tips to avoid childhood obesity


The stress is another factor that promote weight gain. And it is that there are many people who eat for the simple fact that they are stressed or with a great level of anguish, without even being hungry. Thus, in some cases stress leads to consuming large amounts of food in a short time.

Symptoms of obesity

One of the main symptoms associated with obesity is shortness of breath and the feeling of suffocation when faced with any type of physical activity ; in the most extreme cases of obesity, the simple act of walking can give rise to these kinds of signs. This is explained by the accumulation of fat in the area below the diaphragm, as well as on the chest wall, thus exerting pressure on the lungs.

Difficulty breathing can cause serious sleep disorders , such as sleep apnea; that is, the stop of breathing for a few seconds during rest. A disorder that significantly impairs the quality of life of those who suffer from it.

Obesity can also trigger joint problems, especially in the hips, knees, and ankles . Skin disorders are also common among obese people. And it is that their body surface is small in relation to their weight, so that their body cannot eliminate heat efficiently; thus, it is common for them to sweat much more than thin people, which affects the health of the skin.

And finally, edema in areas such as the feet and ankles, which occur as a result of the accumulation of fluid in the body.

Consequences of obesity

Below we indicate which are the main health problems that occur in relation to obesity.

Type 2 diabetes

Without a doubt, one of the most serious consequences of obesity is type 2 diabetes, which develops in adulthood in the vast majority of cases. Among women, obese women are 12 times more likely to develop this disease than women with a healthy weight.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease characterized by the fact that the body is unable to produce enough insulin . Thus, over time, high glucose levels can cause damage to organs that are key to the proper functioning of the body, such as the kidneys or the heart.

Cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are in many cases a direct consequence of obesity since it gives rise to a large number of risk factors: increased levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, increased triglycerides, and hypertension.

A high BMI and hypertension are directly related, as several studies have pointed out. And is that, for every additional ten kilos compared to normal body weight, blood pressure increases between two and three points.

One of the cardiovascular diseases that occur most frequently among obese people is myocardial infarction .

Respiratory diseases

As we have pointed out, one of the most common symptoms among people with obesity is difficulty breathing. Well, one of the consequences that occur more frequently among obese people is obstructive sleep apnea. A chronic disorder that occurs when breathing stops during sleep due to narrowing of the airways.

Psychological problems

Obesity, of course, beyond the consequences for physical health, also leads to psychological problems . In many cases, obese patients suffer from low self-esteem and even depression.

It is a severe illness that goes far beyond feeling sad for a few days. The most common symptoms are the following: feeling of permanent sadness, increased or loss of appetite, tiredness, hopelessness, constant and intense headaches, irritability and anxiety.

How to avoid and prevent it

Here are some of the best tips to avoid obesity and maintain a healthy body weight.

  • Food: taking care of your diet is key to avoiding obesity. Thus, it is advisable to avoid processed foods with a high caloric content, and opt for healthy ones such as fruits, vegetables, and cereals. Experts say that it is best to eat five meals a day.
  • Hydration: sometimes people confuse dehydration with the signals of hunger in the body. The ideal is to consume two liters of water daily to ensure the proper functioning of the body; and is that water, in addition to hydrating, also cleanses and eliminates all toxins.
  • Sleep: it is best to sleep eight hours since lack of sleep generates anxiety, which in many cases encourages you to eat more. Additionally, some studies have shown that anxiety eaters choose unhealthy foods.
  • Exercise: Of course, exercising regularly is a great way to prevent obesity. The most advisable thing is to practice sports daily; just walk or swim for fifteen minutes a day.

This is everything you need to know about obesity, an increasingly common disease in our society, both among adults and children. It is a pathology that can be largely avoided with healthy lifestyle habits from childhood , which is a great advantage. The consequences of obesity are very serious for both physical and mental health, so it is important to maintain an adequate body weight.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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