Q: What is obesity?
A: According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity is defined as “the condition of an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass.”
A more commonly-known definition of obesity is that of an individual’s weight being 30% or more above what is considered normal as defined by a standardly-accepted height/weight chart (e.g. The National Center for Health Statistics or Metropolitan Life Insurance Company). Overweight and obesity are also commonly determined by calculating an individual’s body mass index.
Morbid obesity means that the individual weighs anywhere from 50 to 100% percent more than normal weight or they are more than 100 pounds over normal weight. Morbid obesity literally means that the amount of overweight a person is carrying is life-threatening, due to its related health risks. Morbid obesity also often significantly hinders or prevents an individual from accomplishing many day-to-day functions. Surgical procedures like gastric bypass are often seriously considered as a weight control option for those who are morbidly obese.
Q: Why should obesity taken seriously?
A: Obese individuals have a 50 to 100% increased risk of death from all causes as compared to normal-weight individuals. 5
Q: What is the difference between being overweight and obese?
A: The CDC defines overweight as referring to increased body weight in relation to height as determined by comparison to a standard height/weight chart. 1 People who are considered overweight have not reached a high enough weight to qualify as being obese. As a rule of thumb, the medical community usually considers someone to be overweight rather than obese if their weight is 10% higher than normal as definied by height/weight charts.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD