Morbid Obesity Is, by Definition, a Disease
According to the National Institute of Health, obesity has reached epidemic proportions. It often can lead to heart disease, diabetes, disability and even death. Barnes Bariatric provides obesity treatment with a compassionate understanding of the physical and emotional traumas that are created by morbid obesity.
What Is Morbid Obesity?
There is a difference between simply being overweight and being morbidly obese. Being morbidly obese means being at risk of death because of excess weight. A morbidly obese person is anywhere from 50 to 100 percent above the weight that is considered average or healthy. Whether an individual qualifies as morbidly obese can be determined by measuring that person’s body mass index (BMI), which examines the ratio of weight to height. A BMI of 35 or higher classifies you as morbidly obese. Of course, BMI can sometimes be misleading (consider the case of a 260-pound bodybuilder full of muscle, not fat, whose BMI is over 35), but BMI is one of the criteria that insurance companies use when considering whether a person qualifies for obesity surgery.
Many people experience painful psychological repercussions as a result of obesity. Individuals who are obese can feel ostracized by society and often suffer from depression. The social and economic discrimination that the morbidly obese are well documented. Even more significant, problems caused by morbid obesity include dangerous, and in some cases life-threatening, health conditions. With this in mind, more people are turning to obesity surgery to begin the process of losing weight and improving their lives.
Causes of Morbid Obesity
There are many contributing factors to morbid obesity. Technically, excess weight results from the body’s ingestion of more calories than it is burning off. Here are some of the most common reasons for such an imbalance:
Heredity has long been thought to play a major role in obesity, indicating that obesity may be partly the result of a genetic trait carried down through generations. In all times prior to ours, having biological mechanisms to store fat and conserve energy was actually a benefit that helped ensure survival. Our society has changed a lot faster than our biology, and our bodies are not equipped to deal with the large quantities of high fat, high sugar foods available in modern times. Since obesity frequently runs in families, it may also result from environmental factors such as when someone learns poor behavioral and dietary habits from family or friends.
Physiological conditions can contribute to obesity. Metabolism (the rate at which calories are burned) varies among individuals, some with a very high metabolism and some with a very low one, contributing to that individual being under- or overweight. Certain types of brain damage can disrupt the normal intake of calories as well. If the hypothalamus is damaged, for example, it can skew a person’s appetite. In addition, hormone malfunction can play a role in obesity. However, one of the most common physiological contributors to obesity is hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland slows down metabolism and makes it harder for the body to burn calories at a normal rate.
Depression is one of the most frequently cited psychological conditions among obese persons. Whether depression causes obesity or is simply a condition that may co-exist with obesity is often debated. In either case, mild depression typically improves significantly following weight loss surgery. Any negative psychological state that persists, such as chronic stress, anger, and low self-esteem, can lead to changes in eating habits as well as reduction or cessation of normal exercise routines that lead to weight gain.
Environmental and societal factors can play a role in morbid obesity. For example, high fat, high sugar foods are readily available and are often cheaper than healthier alternatives. Fast-food drive-thrus and hectic day to day demands can lead to a daily habit that often expands your waistline. Regardless of the reason, stress is a way of life for many people and the effects can mean weight gain. Studies have shown that chronic stress can be tied to an increase in appetite due to changes in adrenalin and cortisol levels.
The lack of sleep due to a variety of issues may be a factor in contributing to obesity. Sleep is essential in maintaining certain hormone levels. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin. You may be eating more, plus your metabolism is slower when you are sleep-deprived. Sleep disorders, such as Sleep Apnea, are a cause/ contributor as well.
In addition to the above-mentioned, contributors, a weight problem can be initiated by certain medications, such as some antidepressants and steroids.