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StarGet the Facts — Obesity & Your Health

You Are Not Alone

If you are overweight, you are not alone. The facts are startling and disturbing:

Why is it called "Morbid"?

Morbid obesity is typically defined as being 100 lbs. or more over ideal body weight or having a Body Mass Index of 40 or higher.

"Clinically severe obesity" is a description of the same condition and can be used interchangeably.

  • Today, more than 65% of adults are overweight or obese. 1
  • 32% of children are overweight.1
  • 4.8% of adults are morbidly obese (about 19 million).1
  • Total medical cost for obesity in 2003 was $75 billion.2
  • 325,000 obesity-related deaths occur annually.3
  1. Wang, Y & Beydoun, MA. Epidemiol Rev. 2007; 29: 6-28.
  2. “Quick Facts: Economic and Health Burden of Chronic Disease,” CDC, updated 2007.
  3. Nordmann AJ et al., Arch Intern Med. 2006; 166:285-93.

Morbid obesity is a serious disease and must be treated as such, according to the National Institutes of Health Consensus Report. It is also a chronic disease, meaning that it builds slowly over Obesity Related Health Conditions an extended period of time.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase in 20% or more above your ideal body weight is the point at which excess weight becomes a health risk.

Obesity becomes "morbid" when it reaches the point of significantly increasing the risk of one or more obesity-related health conditions or

What Causes Obesity?
Many factors interact to determine whether or not you will be become obese, such as: Many Factors Influence Obesity
  • genetics
  • heredity
  • environment
  • metabolism
  • eating disorders
  • drugs (like steroids)
  • medical conditions (like hypothyroidism).
Click below to learn more about each factor.
Genetic Factors (click)
Numerous scientific studies have established that our genes play an important role in our tendency to gain excess weight. A number of genes are probably directly related to weight.

Some genes determine eye color or height, other genes affect our appetite, our ability to feel full or satisfied, our metabolism, our fat-storing ability, and even our natural activity levels.

The body weight of adopted children shows no correlation with the body weight of their adoptive parents, who feed them and teach them how to eat. Their weight does have an 80 percent correlation with their genetic parents, whom they have never met.

Identical twins, with the same genes, show a much higher similarity of body weights than do fraternal twins, who have different genes. Certain groups of people, such as the Pima Indian tribe in Arizona, have a very high incidence of severe obesity. They also have significantly higher rates of diabetes and heart disease than other ethnic groups.
Environmental Factors (click)
Environmental and genetic factors are obviously closely intertwined. If you have a genetic predisposition toward obesity, then the modern American lifestyle and environment may make controlling weight more difficult.

Fast food, long days sitting at a desk, and suburban neighborhoods that require cars all magnify hereditary factors such as metabolism and efficient fat storage.

For those suffering from morbid obesity, anything less than a total change in environment usually results in failure to reach and maintain a healthy body weight.
Metabolism (click)
We used to think of weight gain or loss as only a function of calories ingested and then burned. Take in more calories than you burn, gain weight; burn more calories than you ingest, lose weight. But now we know the equation isn't that simple.

Obesity researchers now talk about a theory called the "set point," a sort of thermostat in the brain that makes people resistant to either weight gain or loss. If you try to override the set point by drastically cutting your calorie intake, your brain responds by lowering metabolism and slowing activity. You then gain back any weight you lost.
Medical Conditions (click)
Weight loss surgery is not a cure for medical conditions, such as hypo- thyroidism, or eating disorders that can also cause weight gain.

That's why it's important that you work with your doctor to make sure you do not have a condition that should be treated with medication and counseling.

serious diseases (also known as co-morbidities). These result in significant physical disability or even death.

Causes of Obesity

The reasons for obesity are multiple and complex. Despite conventional wisdom, it is not simply a result of overeating.

Research has shown that in many cases a significant, underlying cause of morbid obesity is genetic. Mother and Daughter

Studies have demonstrated that once the problem is established, efforts such as dieting and exercise programs have a limited ability to provide effective long-term relief.

Obesity & Life Expectancy

Research has shown that your BMI clearly affects your life expectancy, as can be seen in the chart below.

BMI and Life Expectancy

  • Younger and middle aged men and women have an increasing risk of dying prematurely as their BMI increases from ideal (19-25) to over weight (25-30) to moderately obese (30 to 40) and beyond.21
  • Teens entering adulthood with BMI over 40 die 8-13 years earlier than general population 2
  1. Freedman DM et al. Int J of Obesity. 2006; 30: 822-292.
  2. Fontaine KR et al. JAMA. 2003; 289: 187-93.

Obesity Treatment

Research shows that traditional treatment options, such as diet, exercise, and behavior modification, are relatively ineffective in helping patients with morbid obesity achieve and maintain weight loss over the long term.

Weight loss surgery is typically more effective, providing the longest period of sustained weight loss in patients for whom all other options failed.

Click below for a comparison of the success rates of the three main types of treatment for morbid obesity:

Compare Treatments Success Rates

"Bariatric surgery is the only
proven method of achieving
weight control in the morbidly

         Dr. Christopher Joyce

Walk in the shoes of a morbidly
obese person for one day and
you will understand their