As we all know the health risks from obesity are numerous. It always seems as if the latest study contradicts earlier ones and it’s hard to know what to believe. But, over the last few decades, a wide array of independent studies has tended to confirm some conclusions about the relationship between excess body fat and associated health risks.

What most seem to agree on is that anyone who is considerably overweight is at higher risk for a number of potential health problems. These include various forms of heart condition, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, liver damage, gallstones and others. As you can see the health risks from obesity are many and very serious.

How can you tell if your obese or seriously overweight?

There’s no ideal weight for any given individual, though there are various factors that provide a healthy range. One measurement that is a good starting point is BMI (Body Mass Index). To calculate it, just divide your weight (in kg) by your height (in m) squared. The following table is a rough classification:

Under 18.5 = Underweight

Between 18.5 and 24.99 = Normal Weight

Between 25 and 29.99 = Overweight

Between 30 and 34.99 = Obese (Class 1)

Between 35 and 39.99 = Obese (Class 2)

40 and above = Extreme Obesity

If you are on the lower end of the BMI scale, health risks are no more (or at most only moderately higher) than for anyone. Genetic and other environmental factors will outweigh any body fat or weight issues. But for those nearer the higher range, there is strong evidence that health risks are higher.

Other health risks from obesity include, abdominal obesity (having large fat deposits around the stomach and abdomen) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance syndrome. For women, a waist circumference of 35 inches or more (40+ in men) is an indicator of abdominal obesity. Among other conditions, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high cholesterol are all common factors associated with that condition.

There is also narrowing of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which contributes to the possibility of a clot which can cause a stroke. Excessive body fat is one factor in producing that condition. At the same time, it plays a part in increased blood pressure (hypertension).

If you have rapid weight gain, from 10-20 lbs for the average person, this will increase the odds of developing Type 2 diabetes. Genetic factors are fundamental, but weight gain plays a role, according to most studies. The risk is double that of an individual who has not had a weight gain, when other factors are held constant.

Another health risk is Liver disease, apart from that associated with excessive alcohol consumption, can be caused by insulin resistance. That resistance is much more likely among those who are obese. There are many studies which have correlated BMI with the degree of liver damage. The higher the BMI, the greater the odds of liver trouble.

Then there are gallstones which are more likely to form in those who are obese, and may be correlated with a rapid rise in BMI. Sleep apnea (interruption of breathing during sleep) is another condition commonly linked to obesity.

To conclude, though no single study is definitive, and there are many genetic and other environmental elements, excessive body fat is a substantial factor in health issues. Being overweight and the health risks from obesity is not merely an issue of acceptable appearance, it’s a health risk.

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