The Obesity Epidemic, Part 2

April 13, 2011 No Comments by Scott Isaacs MD

As the obesity epidemic is increasing, the comorbidities of obesity are also increasing at a dramatic and accelerated rate, as are the costs.

Gaining weight and having a sedentary lifestyle affects brain structure and function.  Research has found that a part of the brain known as the frontal cortex, which regulates impulsivity, is smaller in obese teens than their normal weight counterparts.  Studies have been done in people as old as 80 and as young as 4 and they all show a similar effect of weight gain on the brain.

20% of pregnant women are obese, which increase rates of birth defects and deaths for both babies and mothers.  Babies born to obese mothers have a three times more likely to die before they are one month old.  The rate of still births is double when a mother is obese.  Pregnant mothers who are overweight transfer increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to their children.  Children born from obese mothers are prewired to develop chronic illness, getting them at earlier ages and at a lower body weight.

Americans are experiencing more weight-related physical disabilities than ever before.

Conditions made worse by being overweight:

• Absenteeism from work

• Academic discrimination

• Acanthosis nigricans

• Arthritis

• Breast cancer

• Colorectal cancer

• Congestive heart failure

• Death

• Decreased work productivity

• Diabetes

• Employment discrimination

• Fatty liver disease and cirrhosis

• Gallstones

• GERD and heartburn

• Gestational diabetes

• Gout

• Heart attacks

• Hernias

• High blood pressure

• High cholesterol

• Impaired quality of life

• Increased surgical risk

• Kidney failure

• Low back pain

• Low testosterone (in men)


• Plantar fasciitis

• Prediabetes

• Pulmonary hypertension

• Sciatica

• Skin infections

• Skin tags

• Sleep apnea

• Social discrimination

• Stroke

• Urinary incontinence

• Uterine cancer

• Varicose veins

The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2010 that even a small amount of weight gain increases the risk for dying.  Every pound you gain increases your risk of dying.  Overweight people have a 13% increased risk of dying early and the risk increases to 44% once a person becomes overweight.  The study reported that those with higher body weight are at even higher risk for dying.

BMI                  Increased risk for death

25-29.9             13%

30-34.9             44%

35-39.9             88%

40-49.9             251%

A study published in Diabetes Care found that obese people who don’t exercise have a 16 times increased risk for developing diabetes.  The same study found that even normal weight people who don’t exercise double their risk for getting diabetes.  The CDC reports that 133,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each month.  More than 100 million Americans now have prediabetes or diabetes.  The number of people with diabetes has doubled in the past decade.  This is 40% of the adult population. It is predicted that half of Americans will have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020.  20% of people with diabetes are more than 100 pounds overweight. Less than half of patients who are diagnosed with prediabetes even try to lose weight. Having diabetes increases the risk for 24 types of cancer.  Being obese means having a 56% increased risk of dying in a car accident.

Next week, I’ll have even more shocking information on this epidemic.

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