What is Obesity and How can it be Prevented?

Obesity or overweight are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. The weight may come from muscle, bone, fat and body water. It happens over time when you consume more calories than you burn. A body mass index (BMI) of 25 is categorised as overweight and upwards of 30 is categorised as obese. The issue has grown exponentially among the population, with over 4 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese in 2017 according to the global burden of disease.


Obesity increases your risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis and some types of cancer. If you have obesity, losing even 5-10% of your body weight can prevent or delay some of these diseases.

Obesity rates continue to grow among adults and children. From the year 1975 to 2016, the prevalence of overweight and obese children and adolescents aged 5-19 years increased more than four-fold from 4% to 18% globally.

Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low and middle-income countries, particularly in an urban setting. Today, more people are obese than underweight in almost every region except Saharan Africa and Asia. The vast majority of obese and overweight children live in developing countries, particularly in urban areas, where the rate of increase is 30% more than that of developed countries.


Obesity Symptoms

Body mass index (BMI) is often used to diagnose obesity. It is a simple calculation using a person’s height and weight. The formula is BMI=kg/m² where kg is a person’s body weight in kilograms and m² is their height in meters squared. A BMI of 25 or more is overweight, while the healthy range is 18.5 to 24.9.

  • BMI below 18.5 is categorised as underweight
  • BMI between 18.5-24.9 is categorised as normal
  • BMI between 25.0-29.9 is categorised as overweight
  • BMI of 30.0 and higher is categorised as obese

Asians with a BMI of 23 or higher may have an increased risk of health problems.

For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat content. However, BMI doesn’t directly measure body fat, so, certain people like athletes, may have their BMI in the obesity category even though they don’t have excess body fat. Many doctors also measure a person’s waist circumference to help guide the treatment of obesity. Waist related problems are more common in men with a waist circumference over 40 inches (102cms) and in women with a waist measurement over 35 inches (89cms).

Obesity Causes

It occurs when you take in more calories than you burn through normal daily activities and exercise. Your body stores those excess calories as fats. Although there are metabolic, genetic, behavioural and hormonal influences on body weight.

Many people who live in the cities now have jobs that are much less physically demanding, so they don’t tend to burn as many calories at work. Even daily activities use fewer calories courtesy of conveniences such as remote controls, escalators, elevators, and online shopping.


Risk factors

People with obesity are more likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes. Obesity can affect the way the body uses insulin to control blood sugar levels. This raises the risk of diabetes.
  • Certain cancers. Obesity may increase the risk of cancer of the uterus, breast, ovary, rectum, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys and prostrate.
  • Digestive problems. Obesity increases the occurrence of heartburns and liver problems.
  • Sleep apnea. People with obesity are more likely to have sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing stops repeatedly and starts during sleep.
  • Severe COVID-19 symptoms. Obesity increases the risk of developing severe symptoms if you are infected with the coronavirus disease.
  • Heart diseases and strokes. Obesity accounts to high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels.


Many of these tips are the same for losing or maintaining a healthy weight. The bottom line is that eating a healthy diet and getting more physical activity can help prevent obesity.

  • Consume less processed and sugary foods. Consumption of processed foods is linked to a higher risk of obesity, as many processed foods are high in fat, salt and sugar which can encourage overeating.
  • Eat plenty of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre plays a role in weight maintenance. People who took a fibre complex supplement 3 times daily for 12 weeks lost up to 5 percent of their body weight
  • Consume less fat. Not all fat is bad. Healthy dietary fats such as polyunsaturated fats, can improve cholesterol levels and reduce obesity risk.
  • Eat more servings of vegetables and fruits. The daily recommendation is 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day for adults. Filling your plate with healthy fruits and vegetables help keep calories in check and reduce the risk of overeating.
  • Engage in regular activities. Incorporating regular physical activity into your schedule is important for maintaining or losing weight as it burns excess fats from the body.
  • Learn how to meal prep. It’s much easier to grocery shop for healthy foods when you have a plan. Creating a food budget and cooking meals at home can help avoid unwanted temptations for unhealthy foods.
  • Cut off stress from life. Stress can have many affects on the body and mind. It may even trigger the brain that changes eating patterns and leads to cravings for high-calorie foods.

Lastly, preventing obesity plays an important role in good health. Obesity is associated with a long list of chronic health conditions, many of which become more difficult to treat over time. By focusing on obesity prevention and lifestyle changes, it may be possible to slow or prevent the development of these diseases.