Understanding the Meaning of Obesity, Risks and Causes | Obesity
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Take Care Against Obesity:

Understanding the meaning of obesity, risks and causes

Having no food can be the ultimate nightmare. But as it turns out, so can being surrounded by a surplus of food. Yes, obesity and being overweight is causing more illness than ever before (and while over eating isn’t the only reason behind it, it is – as we will see in this blog – one of the main causes responsible for obesity).

The numbers are scary: Nearly 2.8 million deaths are reported as a result of obesity and overweight conditions. Worldwide, over 1.9 billion adults are medically overweight, and 650 million are obese. In India, over 135 million suffer from obesity of some form – with more women suffering from the condition than men. Health hazards like diabetes, heart diseases and hypertension – amongst other critical illnesses – have all been scientifically related to obesity.

Unfortunately, India is known as the diabetes, heart disease and cancer capital of the world, obesity has a part to play here.

Defining Obesity (Meaning of Obesity)

The meaning of obesity varies depending on what one reads. The traditional meaning of obesity is a body weight that is 20% more than one’s ‘ideal body weight’. A crude measure is one’s body weight (measured in kilograms) divided by the square of his or height (measured in metres). Both Overweight and Obesity refer to abnormal or excessive fat deposition in the body which can pose a hazard to health.

Obesity or Overweight? Understanding the Difference

Difference between obesity and overweight

We tend to use the two terms interchangeably in our daily conversations, but they are not the same. The difference between the two is a term called BMI, or Body Mass Index. BMI is a medical measure of a person’s body fat in co-relation to his or her height, sex and age. A BMI that ranges between 25 and 29.9 indicates that a person is over-weight, while a BMI of 30 or above suggests that the person may be suffering from serious obesity (morbid obesity). But the BMI isn’t everything. Other factors – such as waist-to-height ratio, waist-to-hip ratio and distribution of fat across the body –also play a part in determining whether an individual’s weight and shape are ‘healthy’, or above the warning line.

Health and Other Risks of Obesity

Being overweight and obese bring with it a host of maladies and illnesses, some of which could be fatal. Some of them are:

  • Stroke and heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Bone & joint illness
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea ( a sleep disorder where one’s breathing stops and starts involuntarily)
  • Breathing problems
  • Gall bladder diseases (including Gall stone)
  • Lowered count of HDL cholesterol (or ‘good cholesterol’)
  • High triglyceride count
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Acid reflux (GERD)
  • Certain types of cancers
  • Gynecological problems (for example irregular periods and infertility- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOD)
  • Sexual health issues such as erectile dysfunction
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Psychological conditions like low self-esteem, behavioural problems, reduced social activities, learning difficulties and depression.

What are the Causes of Obesity?

Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, below we are describing main causes of obesity.


When our body doesn’t burn as much calorie as it consumes (via food and drinks), it stores them as fat, which gradually leads to overweight conditions and obesity. Lethargic individuals, those who over-rely on their cars instead of walking, a lack of outdoor games and exercise and those with sedentary lifestyles are most susceptible to this condition – both across men and women.


Our dietary habits perhaps have the greatest impact on whether we are overweight and obese. ‘Junking out’ on food that’s high in fat, salt and sugar, consuming dishes fried in the wrong kind of oil, binge-eating with friends, raiding the fridge at night, eating too frequently as a habit or eating in large portions (over-eating) can all lead to weight gain.


Medical research has proven that when we don’t get enough sleep, we may become overweight and obese.


In some cases, medical conditions can lead to obesity and an individual becoming overweight. Some of them include underactive thyroid glands and Cushing’s Syndrome. Taking regular medication for these can, in turn, help control obesity. Sometimes, the medicines we take to treat illnesses like asthma, diabetes, depression and epilepsy can also lead to weight gain, and in time, obesity.


Obesity can run in the family. Sometimes, our genes are hereditarily conditioned to store more fat. Our genes may also determine the distribution of fat in our bodies. Genetics can also play a part in how efficiently the body converts food into energy and how it converts it into calories.


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