Health Facts: Obesity as a Disease

Health Facts: Obesity as a Disease

Obesity is a term commonly associated with being heavy or overweight.  Not many people realize that it also describes a spectrum of medical conditions that are associated with excess weight.  Currently over 1/3 of the U.S. population is obese, yet the term is still largely misunderstood and carries stigma.

One is described as “obese” if the Body Mass Index (BMI), a ratio of height and weight, exceeds 30.  This is a convenient way to contextualize body weight, but it ignores the consequences of being too heavy.  Today obesity is recognized as a disease in itself, not merely a category of BMI.  Research has proven that excessive fat in the body leads to a pro-inflammatory state that impacts multiple organs and systems.  This is the underlying mechanism by which excessive fat leads to poor health.  Examples include:

  • Artherosclerosis and narrowing of blood vessels, predisposing to heart attacks and strokes
  • Impaired immunity leading to higher risk of infection and poor wound healing
  • Poor lung function, decreasing exercise tolerance and lung capacity
  • Stress on large joints, causing early arthritis, worsened by impaired healing
  • Nutritional imbalance, irregular gut flora and abnormal GI functions

When we carry excessive fat in our bodies, the fat cells themselves promote inflammatory
changes that permeate throughout our systems.  It does not just affect one’s ability to exercise and move around, but also the ways we process our food, maintain vital circulations, and heal injuries.

If we consider being obese as an overall state of impaired health rather than just a category on a scale, the complications make more sense and the solutions become more obvious.  Research has shown that patient motivation toward weight loss is also positively affected.  In later columns, we’ll explore some options for weight loss and healthier lifestyles.  Hope this helps!



This column is sponsored by Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center.

BIO: Dr. Shiva Seetahal is a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in minimally-invasive procedures.  He has published over 20 scientific articles and book chapters.  For questions related to surgical health, you can contact him at, or call his office at (863) 421-7626 to schedule an appointment.


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