Obesity is a serious chronic disease associated with having excess body fat to the extent that it may have a negative effect on your health. Obesity is complex because it is influenced by a combination of many factors both inside and outside your body1,2.
Watch a short animation video outlining the complexity of obesity as a chronic disease.
Obesity is generally understood to develop because of an imbalance between energy consumed as food and the way the body uses this energy for things like physical activity. Any energy the body does not use is then stored as fat6. But this process is complex: appetite and energy expenditure are regulated by the brain based on signals from many parts of the body, including the gut, pancreas and fat-storing tissues7. Additionally, other biologic factors, including certain medical conditions, can have a negative influence on this process.
Some people can also be genetically predisposed to obesity, so your family history and ethnicity can also affect your risk of developing the disease10.
The science behind obesity is complex, and the underlying cause of
the disease – an energy imbalance between food consumed and the energy
used – is just one part of the story.
Scroll through this interactive infographic to learn more about the internal and external factors that can influence your chances of developing obesity.
Obesity is classified as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. BMI – or your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in metres11 – may be used by your healthcare professional to see if you are the right weight for your height, and can be a useful tool for identifying obesity. Many people affected by obesity are not even aware that they are living with it.
Having obesity can make you more likely to develop other serious diseases that often lead to a decreased quality of health and life.
Cancer: Cancer is a disease involving the uncontrolled growth
of abnormal cells in the body. These cells prevent the normal
function of vital organs and damage essential bodily systems.
Diabetes: Diabetes is a life-long disease marked by high blood sugar levels. It can be caused by too little insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar), resistance to insulin, or both. Men and women with obesity are nearly 7 times and 12 times more likely, respectively, to develop type 2 diabetes than people without obesity12.
Gallbladder Disease: Gallbladder disease includes inflammation, infection, stones, or obstruction of the gallbladder. Men and women with obesity are around 1.5 and 2 times more likely, respectively, to develop gallbladder disease than people without obesity.
Heartburn: Heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the chest, just below the breastbone. The pain often starts in the chest and may move to the neck or throat.
Heart Disease: Heart disease refers to any disorder that affects the heart’s ability to function normally. The most common cause of heart disease is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.
Lipid disorders: Lipids are fats or fat-like molecules that play many important roles in your body, and include cholesterol and triglycerides. However, having an excess of these fatty substances in your blood can increase your risk of arteriosclerosis and heart disease.
High Blood Pressure: Blood pressure is the force of blood
pushing against your artery walls. It is measured in millimetres of
mercury (mm Hg). You have high blood pressure - also known as
hypertension - if your blood pressure frequently goes above 140/90 mm
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease in which joint cartilage – the protective covering on the end of your bones – wears away. Men and women with obesity are 4 and 2 times more likely, respectively, to develop osteoarthritis than people without obesity12.
Clinical depression: Clinical depression is a mood disorder where feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with your life for an extended time. People with obesity are 55% more likely to develop depression, meanwhile people with depression have a 58% increased risk of developing obesity13.
Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnoea (also apnea) is a disorder in which you repeatedly stop breathing while you sleep. Studies show that as many as 45% of people with obesity also have sleep apnoea14.
Stroke: A stroke occurs when a blood vessel (artery) that supplies blood to the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot.
Obesity perspectives is a blog where members of Novo Nordisk's Disease Experience Expert Panels (DEEPs) share their personal perspectives on living with obesity. From starting conversations with healthcare professionals, to starting a movement to advocate change, our bloggers offer thought-provoking opinions, advice and encouragement for every step of the obesity journey.
DISEASE EXPERIENCE EXPERT PANELS
At Novo Nordisk, we consider people living with serious chronic diseases to be experts. That's why we invite them to become members of our Disease Experience Expert Panels (DEEPs). DEEP members are able to provide disease-specific insights and advice based on real-world experiences. This input guides us as we work to develop better treatments and meaningful support for people living with chronic diseases worldwide.
Obesity is a serious chronic disease that requires treatment. Lifestyle therapies including diet and exercise are important, but are not always enough to maintain weight loss. For some people, medical treatment options, such as medicines or bariatric surgery, may also be considered.
People with obesity encounter challenges on many levels, from finding clothes that fit, to low self-esteem, to frustrating attempts to lose weight. Many also face stigma and weight bias on a daily basis, which can make it even harder to them to succeed. Understanding how these challenges are interrelated is an essential first step to ensuring that people living with obesity get the support they need to achieve better health and a better quality of life.
1Wright SM, Aronne LJ. Causes of obesity. Abdominal
Imaging. 2012; 37:730–732.
2National Institutes of Health. Clinical Guidelines On The Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment Of Overweight And Obesity In Adults. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guid<elines/obesity/ob_gdlns.pdf. Last accessed: March 2018
3NIH. What causes overweight and obesity? Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/causes. Last accessed: March 2018.
4National Institutes of Health. Clinical Guidelines On The Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment Of Overweight And Obesity In Adults. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guid<elines/obesity/ob_gdlns.pdf. Last accessed: March 2018
5National Institutes of Health. Clinical Guidelines On The Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment Of Overweight And Obesity In Adults. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guid<elines/obesity/ob_gdlns.pdf. Last accessed: March 2018
6NIH. What causes overweight and obesity? Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/causes. Last accessed: March 2018.
7Sumithran P PL, Delbridge E, Purcell K, Shulkes A, Kriketos A, Proietto J. Long-term persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011; 365:1597–1604
8NIH. What causes overweight and obesity? Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/causes. Last accessed: March 2018.
9Collins J, JE B. Behavioral and Psychological Factors in Obesity. The Journal of Lancaster General Hospital 2009; 4:124–127
10NIH. What causes overweight and obesity? Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/causes. Last accessed: March 2018.
11WHO. Obesity: Preventing and managing the global epidemic. Available at: http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/42330 Last accessed: March 2018.
12Guh DP, Zhang W, Bansback N, et al. The incidence of co-morbidities related to obesity and overweight: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2009; 9:1-20.
13National Obesity Observatory. Obesity and Mental Health. 2011. Available at: https://khub.net/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=18cd2173-408a-4322-b577-6aba3354b7ca&groupId=31798783. Last accessed: March 2018
14Romero-Corral A, Caples SM, Lopez-Jimenez F, et al. Interactions between obesity and obstructive sleep apnea: implications for treatment. Chest. 2010; 137:711-719.