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Obesity is a state of excess adipose tissue mass. About 70% of U.S. adults are categorized as overweight or obese, and the prevalence of obesity is increasing rapidly in most of the industrialized world. Children and adolescents also are becoming more obese, indicating that the current trends will accelerate over time. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of multiple health problems, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, obstructive sleep apnea, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, degenerative joint disease, and some malignancies.

Obesity should not be defined by body weight alone, as muscular individuals may be overweight by arbitrary standards without having increased adiposity. The most widely used method to classify weight status and risk of disease is the body mass index (BMI), which is equal to weight/height2 in kg/m2. At a similar BMI, women have more body fat than men. Furthermore, regional fat distribution may influence the risks associated with obesity. Central (primarily visceral) obesity (high ratio of the circumference of the waist to the circumference of the hips [waist-to-hip ratio], >0.9 in women and 1.0 in men) is independently associated with a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus, hyperandrogenism in women, and cardiovascular disease.


Obesity can result from increased energy intake, decreased energy expenditure, or a combination of the two. Excess accumulation of body fat is the consequence of environmental and genetic factors; social factors and economic conditions also represent important influences. The recent increase in obesity can be attributed to a combination of excess caloric intake and decreasing physical activity. Poorly understood reasons for increased food assimilation due to dietary composition have also been postulated, as have sleep deprivation and an unfavorable gut flora. The susceptibility to obesity is polygenic in nature, and 30–50% of the variability in total fat stores is believed to be genetically determined. Among monogenic causes, mutations in the melanocortin receptor 4 are most common and account for ∼1% of obesity in the general population and ∼6% in severe, early-onset obesity. Syndromic obesity forms include Prader-Willi syndrome and Laurence-Moon-Biedl syndrome. Other monogenetic or syndromic causes are extremely rare. Secondary causes of obesity include hypothalamic injury, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and hypogonadism. Drug-induced weight gain is also common in those who use antidiabetes agents (insulin, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones), glucocorticoids, psychotropic agents, mood stabilizers (lithium), antidepressants (tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, paroxetine, mirtazapine), or antiepileptic drugs (valproate, gabapentin, carbamazepine). Insulin-secreting tumors can cause overeating and weight gain.


Obesity has major adverse effects on health. Increased mortality from obesity is primarily due to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, gall bladder disease, diabetes mellitus, and several types of cancer, such as cancer of the esophagus, colon, rectum, pancreas, liver, and prostate, and gallbladder, bile ducts, breasts, endometrium, cervix, and ovaries in women. Sleep apnea in severely obese individuals poses serious health risks. Obesity is also associated with an ...

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