obesity : Symptoms , causes and preventive measures

by Ezeneck
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The rise of obesity is seen worldwide, regardless of wealth or poverty. In 2016, the WHO counted 1.9 billion overweight adults in the world and 650 million defined as “obese.” Globally, the number of cases of obesity has almost tripled since 1975.

This situation constitutes a profound public health problem: obese people have more health problems, more risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, cancers, joint problems, hormonal problems and others.

At the same time, the prevalence of overweight is not decreasing, on the contrary: more and more people are overweight or obese, and younger and younger. What are the causes of obesity? What is the treatment for obesity? What are the preventive measures against obesity?

What is obesity?

Obesity and overweight are characterized by an abnormal, or excessive, accumulation of adipose tissue (containing fat) that can represent a health danger.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the primary indicator of whether an adult is overweight or obese:

A person is considered overweight when their BMI is between 25 and 30.

A person is considered obese when their BMI is greater than or equal to 30.


BMI is calculated as follows: weight (in kg) / (height (in m²))

For example: 61kg / (1.57m x 1.57m) = 24.7

What are the causes of obesity?

The causes of obesity vary from one individual to another.

Generally, obesity is caused by a combination of several factors:

  • Excessive consumption of caloric foods is the main cause of overweight and obesity;
  • Genetic predisposition;
  • Insufficient or non-existent exercise;
  • Sedentary lifestyle measured by the time spent in front of a screen (study on children);
  • Environmental factors (economic and/or social situation (low income), family);
  • Food marketing, advertisements…

Symptoms and Complications :

Health risks associated with obesity include:

  • stroke;
  • coronary artery disease (of the heart)
  • joint disease (e.g., osteoarthritis)
  • gallbladder or liver disease
  • certain types of cancer (e.g., prostate and bowel cancer for men, breast and uterine cancer for women)
  • Reproductive system disorders, including reduced fertility;
  • depression;
  • diabetes;
  • elevated blood pressure
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • High cholesterol;
  • Breathing disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

People who are obese may have symptoms of the above medical conditions. Some of the most common are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breathing problems and joint pain (in the knees or lower back). The more obese a person is, the more likely he or she is to have obesity-related medical problems.

In addition to medical complications, obesity is also linked to psychosocial problems such as low self-esteem, discrimination, difficulty finding a job, and reduced quality of life.

What are the causes of obesity?

So why do we become “fat”? What causes this weight gain, what are the causes of obesity and overweight? At first glance, the question may seem trivial: if you get fat, it’s because you simply eat too much, right? In fact, overweight and obesity are closely linked to our eating habits. But the causes of these pathologies are in fact more complex: both dietary, related to our lifestyles, our social and economic environment, and many other factors.

More than ever, it is urgent to understand these causes and their interactions, to better understand this major public health problem. We explain :

A main cause: the caloric surplus

The scientific literature seems to agree on the fact that weight gain leading to overweight or obesity has one main cause: an imbalance between the calories ingested and the calories expended. In short, we gain weight when we eat more than our body expends in energy.

Weight gain, and in particular fat gain, occurs when the body is chronically in caloric surplus. To summarize it simply: when we ingest food, it is digested and transformed into simpler molecules, which are then used by our cells to produce energy by different physicochemical reactions. This energy is then used by our cells, notably to operate our muscles and biological functions.

If we consume too much food, and in particular too much energy-rich food, compared to the energy we need on a daily basis, we find ourselves with an energy surplus. And this energy, the body stores it somewhere. First in the liver and muscles, in the form of glycogen, then in the form of fat.

Physiologically, there can be no weight gain without excess calories. If we gain weight, it is necessarily because we eat too much compared to our energy needs. However, if the “calories in – calories out” equation is the essential cause of weight gain, it does not sum up the complexity of the issue. In fact, two individuals who consume the same food and exercise the same amount will not necessarily have the same results in terms of weight gain or loss. These differences are related to what is called “metabolism”.

Beyond calories: the complexity of metabolism

Metabolism refers to all the chemical reactions that take place within a living organism and that allow it to carry out its biological functions. In terms of diet and weight, metabolism generally refers to the set of reactions that allow us to regulate our digestion, our appetite, the way we use nutrients to produce energy or to produce new cells, the way we consume the energy we produce through food, etc.

These metabolic responses are usually triggered by our nervous and hormonal systems, and they vary from person to person, so everyone will have a different metabolism.

For example, our propensity to convert nutrients into fat is partly regulated by a hormone: insulin. In simple terms, when we digest, we convert nutrients into glucose, which circulates in the bloodstream to be converted into energy. But the body must maintain blood glucose at a moderate level to function properly.

To achieve this, digestion and the rise in blood glucose levels trigger the secretion of a hormone called insulin by the pancreas. This hormone acts as a signal to the body to store excess glucose, which is not used by the cells, especially in the form of fat. It can then be converted back into glucose later.

Conversely, another hormone, glucagon, is secreted when the blood glucose level is low, and indicates to the body a need for glucose. The cells that store it (in the liver, muscles, or fatty tissue) then release this glucose.

This is how we “burn” fat. The balance between these hormonal cycles is very variable from one individual to another, because it is influenced by diet, physical activity, sleep, and other hormones (cortisol, thyroid) that depend on our lifestyle (stress, medical situation …).

As a result, some individuals will be more or less sensitive to insulin, and will therefore have a greater or lesser propensity to convert nutrients into fat following a meal.

Metabolism is all the more complex because there are dozens of reactions that affect our eating, digestion, and so on. Appetite, for example, is regulated by two hormones with opposite functions: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, and leptin decreases it, for simplicity.

The cycles of these hormones vary considerably depending on lifestyle and other factors, which explains why some people have more difficulty regulating their appetite than others. We could also talk about the role of the thyroid, cortisol, and others.

Metabolism is therefore an important determinant of weight gain, which means that the factors that affect our metabolism (diet, physical activity, sleep, lifestyle and others) can be causes of weight gain, overweight and obesity. Some researchers use the term “metabolic syndrome” to refer to obesity.

The importance of the glycemic load in weight gain

In recent years, scientific literature has highlighted a particularly important factor in the state of human metabolism and, by extension, in weight gain: the glycemic load of our meals. The glycemic load refers to the propensity of a food to raise blood glucose levels rapidly after a meal.

A food with a high glycemic load generally contains a lot of carbohydrates (i.e. all the “sugars”, including the so-called “complex” sugars) and has a high glycemic index, which means that these carbohydrates are easily and quickly absorbed by the body during digestion.

Foods with a high glycemic load include sugary foods, but also starchy foods such as cereals, flours, breads and potatoes, especially when they are refined, i.e., processed to remove their fiber.

A diet with a high glycemic load causes significant fluctuations in blood glucose levels, and therefore insulin peaks, which disrupt our metabolism over time.

Progressively, the insulin cycles are disrupted, which increases fat storage, and in turn modifies other hormonal systems (ghrelin, leptin, thyroid) with long-term effects: increased hunger, decreased caloric expenditure, fatigue…

A vicious circle then sets in: we gain weight, which further aggravates the initial hormonal disruptions, and thus reinforces weight gain, etc. These phenomena are reinforced by an unbalanced diet: a diet that is too low in fiber, vegetables and fruits, and low in vitamins and minerals, reinforces both the glycemic load of meals and accentuates metabolic dysfunctions.

Some researchers believe, in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that all of these phenomena have a major role in the development of overweight and obesity.

In short: if we get fat, it is often because we eat too much, but especially badly: too many foods with a high glycemic load, which disrupt our metabolism, too little fiber, minerals and vitamins. Historically, we observe that the rise in obesity rates coincides with the development of a food supply rich in carbohydrates and sugars and poor in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

The role of lifestyle in weight gain and obesity

In addition to these strictly dietary causes, our lifestyle also plays a role in fat gain. Indeed, our daily lifestyle influences our hormonal system and our metabolism. Certain behaviors can therefore promote weight gain, and ultimately lead to overweight. Here are the most significant examples:

Lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle

Physical activity, by increasing our daily caloric expenditure, allows us in principle to limit the risks of caloric excess, provided of course that we do not compensate by increasing our food consumption. Scientific studies have also shown for a long time that physical activity has a regulating effect on the metabolism.

It improves insulin sensitivity, for example, and therefore helps to avoid some of the negative effects of a diet too rich in carbohydrates. Physical activity improves the metabolism of fats and sugars, and it also regulates the hormones linked to stress. In this sense, being active and playing sports is one of the elements of our lifestyle that allows us to limit weight gain and the risks of overweight or obesity.

Conversely, as confirmed by recent reviews of scientific literature, lack of physical activity is a risk factor for fat gain, overweight and obesity. A sedentary lifestyle reduces the activity of enzymes that allow our body to break down fats for energy (for example, lipoprotein lipase). It also decreases vascular activity, degrades hormonal functioning, acts on the nervous system… These different effects make the body less efficient to mobilize energy, regulate its weight and manage fat.

A study conducted by Stanford University confirms that historically, the decrease in physical activity is correlated with the increase in obesity rates. And according to the WHO, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the main causes of obesity worldwide.

The role of lack of sleep in overweight

Many studies also show that lack of sleep is a risk factor for weight gain. The association between low sleep duration and higher body mass or increased risk of obesity is well identified in the elderly, as well as in children. Results from studies of middle-aged adults are more mixed, probably due to a lack of quality data.

There is considerable evidence that sleep deprivation promotes risky lifestyles and behaviors with respect to weight gain. For example, individuals who get the least amount of sleep also tend to be the most sedentary and least physically active. A short sleep time leads to physical and mental fatigue which could lead to being less active during the day.

Lack of sleep would also have an impact on metabolic functioning: it would increase the secretion of ghrelin (the hunger hormone), would degrade insulin sensitivity, would increase inflammation… Sleeping too little would also promote the degradation of glucose regulation. And too little sleep would also be linked to another risk factor for obesity, stress: by deregulating the normal hormonal rhythms of the body, it would promote the secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone).

Stress as a risk factor

Stress is generally considered a risk factor for obesity and overweight. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at Stanford University showed that chronic stress affects the way our body produces fat cells. To summarize: when our body is exposed to peaks of hormones called glucocorticoids (stress hormones, mainly cortisol), it tends to produce fat cells. This effect is all the stronger when these peaks are prolonged or regular, and especially when they occur in the evening or at night.

Stress would also have consequences on our eating behaviors and our metabolism: it would increase the feeling of hunger, especially the episodes of compulsive hunger, would participate in deregulating our hormonal systems, our nervous system … As a result, we observe that the levels of cortisol are positively correlated with weight gain and the risk of obesity.

Situations that induce stress thus favor weight gain. It has been shown that working long hours promotes weight gain, as does stress at work. Stress induced by the birth of a child can also cause weight gain.

The many factors that contribute to the overall stress of populations, such as psychological trauma, therefore play a role in the development of overweight and obesity. And conversely, better managing stress can be one of the levers for controlling weight.

In addition to an inadequate diet, lack of physical activity and sleep, as well as chronic stress, appear to be three factors that can increase the risk of weight gain and overweight.

The role of socio-economic and cultural structures in obesity

The problem is that our cultural and socio-economic environment participates in reinforcing all the mechanisms and risk factors that we have just listed. Our social and economic structures encourage junk food, physical inactivity, lack of sleep, stress, etc.

The industrialization of the agri-food sector favors an unbalanced diet

The industrialization of the agri-food sector has thus favored the development of a food that is both abundant, easily accessible, too dense in calories and rich in sugars and saturated or hydrogenated fats, while being ultimately not very nutritious and not very qualitative.

In a few decades, we have observed an increase in the production of products rich in saturated and hydrogenated fats (meat, oils, etc.) and above all, an increase in the production and consumption of refined carbohydrates. We have developed food production compatible with the industrialization of agriculture (highly productive large-scale cereal crops, in particular) and with the race for low prices.

Epidemiological studies and literature reviews show that the development of such a food industry plays a role in the development of overweight. The generalization of products with a high glycemic load and saturated fats in particular promotes an unbalanced diet.

A study published by the Cambridge University Press has shown that the food consumption environment influences the way we eat: if junk food, sugary drinks and refined cereals are accessible and cheap, we tend to consume more of them. Generally speaking, the world has evolved in a few years towards a diet that favors metabolic diseases and chronic illnesses (diabetes, hypertension…).

The role of the socio-economic environment

The economic environment that surrounds food also favors an unbalanced diet that is conducive to weight gain. For example, advertising and marketing have played a fundamental role in the formation of new consumption habits, and in particular the over-consumption of processed products, which are not very nutritious but high in calories and sugars and fats.

The influence of marketing is particularly identified as a risk factor for obesity in children. Advertising and marketing have contributed to the blurring of information about food, and to making nutrition complex for consumers to understand. In general, industrialized societies have changed their relationship to food, and it is often the least healthy foods that have the most cultural visibility.

As a result, there is a great deal of inequality among consumers regarding their relationship to food and their knowledge of what constitutes a healthy diet. Studies consistently show that the most economically disadvantaged people are often those with the highest rates of overweight and obesity.

There are several reasons for this: firstly, the lack of means to prepare healthy and balanced meals (healthy food is often more expensive), a lesser knowledge of nutritional issues, as well as the lack of time, among others. Obesity is thus favored by the persistence (and increase) of socio-economic inequalities, which maintain certain populations in a situation of dependence towards food production that is harmful to health.

In short: our social, economic and cultural environment can increase the risks of weight gain and obesity, by confronting us daily with an unsuitable diet.

Diseases and medications: rare causes of overweight and obesity

Certain diseases or medications can also cause weight gain and even contribute to overweight and obesity. Conditions such as Cushing’s disease, which increases cortisol secretion, severe hypothyroidism, or certain forms of polycystic ovarian syndrome, which affect insulin sensitivity, can have a harmful effect on metabolism and promote weight gain.

Diseases or pathologies that affect mobility can also promote obesity by causing a forced sedentary lifestyle. These diseases are risk factors, but their effects can be moderated with a proper diet. Overall, these medical conditions remain rare and do not explain the current prevalence of obesity.

The use of certain medications can also promote weight gain by altering our metabolism. This is the case with antidepressants, certain steroids and corticosteroids. Once again, these are secondary causes, for which weight gain can be avoided through appropriate treatment and a change in diet and lifestyle.

Genetics: a significant but secondary role

Finally, genetics can also play a role in weight gain and the risk of being overweight or obese. To be precise, certain genetic variants favor weight gain. But contrary to an idea that is increasingly widespread in the public space, obesity is not a genetically transmitted pathology, in the sense that there is not one or more genes that give obesity like genes give blue eyes.

At present, researchers studying this subject have identified two main types of links between genes and obesity. One is monogenic obesity and the other is polygenic obesity. Monogenic obesity refers to very rare forms of obesity (less than 3 to 5% of obese people), associated with mutations in single genes, which predispose to obesity.

Thus, it is known that mutations in certain genes that code for hunger and satiety hormones strongly predispose to obesity by promoting eating disorders. But these mutations are rare, and most often participate in extreme and very early forms of obesity: obesity before the age of 10, Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 35.

Polygenic obesity, on the other hand, refers to more common forms of obesity, partly linked to mutations in a series of genes that cause a metabolism favorable to weight gain. Basically, obese or very overweight people have certain genetic mutations that affect, for example, glucose regulation, insulin sensitivity, fat storage, appetite, etc. Nearly one hundred genetic mutations have been identified in recent literature as mutations that increase the risk of developing a form of overweight or obesity.

But this genetic predisposition does not mean prediction: having genetic mutations predisposing to obesity does not necessarily mean that one becomes obese, far from it. A study published in 2022 in Nature Reviews Genetics shows that if we take a sample of the 10% of individuals with the most mutations predisposing to obesity, only 43% of them actually become obese during their lifetime. Even among those most likely to become obese, less than half do.

In the words of the Harvard University Department of Public Health: genes are not destiny. It is in fact the interactions between predisposing genetics and inappropriate eating behaviors and an unfavorable environment that cause weight gain and obesity. Even when one has a genetic predisposition to obesity, one can maintain a stable and healthy weight by adopting a balanced and adapted diet, physical activity and healthy lifestyle.

Genetics plays a secondary role in weight gain and obesity, by increasing the risk of eating disorders or by provoking a metabolism that favors weight gain. But it is above all our diets and lifestyles that determine our risk of being obese or overweight. More than unfavorable genetics, it is a diet that is not adapted to our genetics that is to blame.

Obesity: a complex, multifactorial disease, but primarily linked to our eating and living habits

The causes of obesity are numerous, and if obesity is primarily related to our way of eating and our physical activity, many factors can increase the risk of gaining weight: our lifestyle, our social and economic environment, certain pathologies or genetic predisposition…

If these causes are multiple, it means that there is no single approach to prevent and/or cure obesity. Certainly, the first lever of action in the face of this complex disease remains to adapt one’s diet and lifestyle: reduce one’s caloric intake, but especially reduce one’s intake of carbohydrates and bad fats, choose foods with a higher nutritional quality, and practice an adapted physical activity. But to fight against obesity, we must also act on what encourages it at the collective level: our food systems, socio-educational and economic imbalances… We must also have an individualized approach, corresponding to medical and even, in the long run, genetic particularities, to offer each person relevant solutions according to their situation.

Treatment and Prevention :

Losing weight can be a long and frustrating process. According to doctors, the healthiest way to do this is to lose no more than 0.5 to 1 kg per week. However, if you absolutely must lose a lot of weight in a few days, you will manage to lose about half a kilo per day of your body weight in water by avoiding salt and carbohydrates and drinking more water. Although it is possible to lose significant weight in a few weeks with this method, your weight loss will slow down as your water weight stabilizes. If you are looking for a way to burn a lot of fat in a short period of time, consult your doctor to see if you can follow a low-calorie diet for a few days.

Phase 1: Get rid of water weight fast

Burn fat fast

Tip #1 To burn fat : Reduce your salt intake.

Excessive salt consumption promotes water retention which contributes to unwanted weight gain and bloating. To lose your water weight, try not to add salt to your meals. Avoid foods and drinks high in salt (such as processed meats), salty snacks (such as chips or nuts) and energy drinks.

  • You can avoid most hidden sources of salt by cooking your own meals from fresh, unprocessed ingredients.
  • When cooking, try replacing salt with other tasty condiments like black pepper or garlic.
  • Eating more potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, tomatoes and potatoes, can also help remove excess salt from your body.

Tip #2: Avoid carbohydrates.

Eating too many simple carbohydrates causes the body to retain more water. This is why many people lose weight quickly when they switch to a low-carb diet (visit “betterhealth.vic.gov.au”). To get rid of your water weight quickly, stop eating carbohydrate-rich snacks such as white bread, pasta, pastries and potatoes.

  • Replace carbohydrate-rich foods in your diet with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like berries, beans and leafy greens.
  • Following a very low-carbohydrate or no-carbohydrate diet for more than a few months can be bad for your health. Ask your doctor to help you safely adjust your carbohydrate intake (according to “rush.edu“).

Warning: While cutting carbohydrates from your diet may help you lose weight in the short term, low-carbohydrate diets are not recommended for long-term weight loss. A healthy diet should include complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread and brown rice.

Tip #3 to Burn Fat : Drink more water.

It may sound counterintuitive, but proper hydration allows the body to retain less fluid. Most adults need to drink 2 to 2.5 liters of water a day to stay healthy, to stay hydrated and to prevent fluid retention. You will need to drink even more water if (according to “betterhealth.vic.gov.au”) :

  • You exercise a lot;
  • You are in a hot environment;
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding;
  • You are sick, especially if you have vomiting or diarrhea;
  • you are on a high-fiber or high-protein diet.

Tip #4: Eat hydrating foods.

Drinking water is not the only way to stay hydrated. You can also flush out excess fluid by eating water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as melons, strawberries and leafy greens (according to ” health.com “).
Low-salt soups or broths are also a good option. Here are the :

Tip #5 To Burn Fat : Get active.

Exercise flushes excess fluid and salt from the body, which helps you lose water weight. Get some exercise by doing some cardiotraining exercises such as cycling, running or brisk walking (according to ” health.com “).

  • High-intensity exercise such as circuit training is a good way to get rid of excess fluid and salt.
  • Just be sure to drink plenty of water during your workout. If you become dehydrated, your body will start to retain more water!

Tip #6: Learn about the use of diuretic medications.

If you are retaining a lot of fluid or gaining water weight easily, visit a doctor. He or she will help you diagnose the source of the problem and treat it properly. Depending on how much water you’re retaining and what triggers it, he or she will recommend medications or supplements that will help you get rid of the excess fluid and water weight ( according to ” mayoclinic.org “).

  • Common treatments for water retention include magnesium supplements and diuretics (water pills).
  • If you gain more than 3 pounds a day or 2 pounds a week, call your doctor right away. Other signs of excessive water retention are swelling of the hands or feet, shortness of breath, coughing, nausea, and feeling full after eating just a little (according to ” health.harvard.edu “).

Phase 2: Burn fat fast

if you want to burn fat, count your daily calories

Tip #7 to Burn Fat : Consult a doctor.

Your doctor can tell you if it’s safe to eat a low-calorie diet. To lose fat quickly, you need to significantly reduce the amount of calories you consume each day. Most low-calorie diets consist of no more than 800 to 1,500 calories per day (according to ” health.usnews.com “). Before adopting such a diet, talk to your doctor about how much you can restrict yourself and for how long.

  • Eating so few calories a day is not for everyone and will not help you lose weight in the long run.
  • Most doctors advise against very low calorie diets (less than 800 calories per day) unless you need to lose weight quickly for medical reasons (for example, if you are preparing for surgery or trying to control a health problem such as diabetes) according to ” nhs.uk “.

Warning: a low-calorie diet can be dangerous if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a medical condition such as an eating disorder or nutritional deficiency (according to ” nhs.uk ).

Tip #8: Count your daily calories.

The number of calories you need to eat each day to maintain your weight depends on your age, gender and activity level. Most adults are supposed to eat an average of 2,000 calories a day, while the recommended amount for men is about 2,500. However, you may be eating more than you think. For example, an American adult eats about 3,600 calories a day and an Austrian adult 3,769 calories (according to an OECD report). Before you cut back on your daily caloric intake, write down everything you usually eat in a day and calculate the total amount of calories it represents (according to ” thehealthy.com“).

  • The amount of calories in prepackaged foods is usually listed on the package and most restaurant menus often list the number of calories for each dish. You can also use a website like this one to find out the calorie content of many foods.
  • If you eat 3,600 calories a day, you will need to cut out 2,100 calories a day to have a daily diet of 1,500 calories. However, you should know that this is not enough to make you lose half a kilogram of fat per day.
  • To be able to lose half a kilogram of fat per day, you need to eliminate 3,500 calories from your daily diet. But, this is really only possible if you are already on an extremely calorie-dense diet of about 5,000 calories per day.

Tip #9: Do some cardio.

In addition to eating less to reduce your calorie intake, you can also do more physical activity to burn more calories ( according to ” mayoclinic.org “). For example, if you are on a high calorie diet of 5,000 calories per day, you can eliminate 3,500 calories by taking 2,500 calories out of your daily diet and exercising enough to burn 1,000 calories per day.

  • The amount of calories you can burn with exercise depends on many factors such as your current weight. If you weigh 85 kg, you can burn 1,000 calories by playing basketball for 2 hours. If you weigh 70 kg, you will need to play for 2.5 hours to burn the same amount ( calculator ).
  • To find out how many calories you can burn by exercising, use calculators like this one.
  • Keep in mind that if you consume very few calories, you will not have enough energy to exercise properly. Here are the :

6 Best Exercises To Lose Weight At Home

Tip #10 To burn fat: Don’t starve yourself for too long.

Following a low-calorie diet is not a safe or effective way to lose weight over the long term. If you really need to lose half a pound of fat a day, try not to starve yourself for more than a few weeks at most. Your doctor will help you determine the best way to get back to a healthy diet without quickly regaining the weight you lost (according to ” health.usnews.com “).
Keep in mind that a very low-calorie diet will cause you to lose water weight and muscle mass in addition to fat.

Medical intervention

Medication can be part of a weight management program. Medications are not “miracle cures” that result in permanent weight loss. They are usually used in combination with an appropriate diet and exercise program. They are reserved for people who have been declared obese (i.e., those with a BMI of more than 30) or for people with a BMI of 27 and additional risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol or diabetes.

A few medicaments have been approved exclusively for short-term use. Orlistat* is an example of a medicaments used for weight loss in Canada that works by preventing the absorption of fat by the intestine. Liraglutide, a medicaments used primarily for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, can also be used for weight loss because it reduces appetite and food intake. A combination of naltrexone and bupropion can be used to help with weight loss. Naltrexone is thought to help by reducing appetite, while bupropion (traditionally used to treat depression) changes the amount of certain chemicals in the brain that cause reduced food intake. Talk to your doctor about whether this medication would be a good choice for you.

Surgery is an option only when other ways of managing excess weight have not been successful. There are many forms of bariatric surgery, but often the surgery reduces the size of the stomach so that only a small amount of food can be eaten without triggering discomfort. Surgical options used to treat obesity include:

  • stapling of the stomach walls;
  • laparoscopic adjustable band
  • Gastric surgery
  • Roux-en-Y gastric bypass
  • Gastric bypass surgery

When reviewing appropriate treatments for managing excess weight, it is important to consider the risks and benefits of each. Your doctor and other health care professionals can provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice.

*All medicaments have both a common name (a generic name) and a brand name. The brand name is the name that a manufacturer chooses for its product (e.g. Tylenol®). The generic name is the name of the medicaments in medicine (e.g. acetaminophen). A medicaments can have multiple brand names, but it has only one generic name. This article lists medicaments by their generic name.

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