Obesity

Obesity

also called CORPULENCE, or FATNESS, excessive accumulation of body fat, usually caused by the
consumption of more calories than the body can use. The excess calories are then stored as fat, or adipose
tissue. Overweight, if moderate, is not necessarily obesity, particularly in muscular or large-boned
individuals. In general, however, a body weight
20 percent or more over the optimum tends to be associated with obesity.

The body's ability to adjust food intake to body needs can be disturbed by numerous factors. Of these,
hormone imbalances and glandular defects are believed to be of least importance, being demonstrable in
only bout 5 percent of all obese individuals. Although obesity may be familial, suggestive of a genetic
predisposition to fat accumulation, there is also evidence that early feeding patterns imposed by the obese
mother upon her offspring may play a major role in a cultural, rather than genetic, transmission of obesity
from one generation to the next. More generally, the distinctive way of life of a nation and the individual's
behavioral and emotional reaction to it may contribute significantly to widespread obesity. Among the
affluent populations, an abundant supply of readily available high-calorie foods and beverages, coupled
with increasingly sedentary living habits that markedly reduce caloric needs, can easily lead to overeating.
The stresses and tensions of modern liv!
ing also cause some individuals to turn to foods and alcoholic drinks for "relief."

Obesity may be undesirable from an aesthetic sense, especially in parts of the world where slimness is the
popular preference; it is also a serious medical problem. Generally, obese persons have a shorter life
expectancy; they suffer earlier, more often, and more severely from a large number of diseases than do their
normal-weight counterparts. They are also more likely to die prematurely of degenerative diseases of the
heart, arteries, and kidneys. More die of accidents and diabetes, and
more constitute poor surgical risks than persons with normal weight. Mental health is also affected;
behavioral consequences of an obese appearance, ranging from shyness and withdrawal to overly bold elf-
assertion, may be rooted in neuroses and psychoses.

The treatment of obesity has two main objectives: removal of the causative factors, which may be difficult
if the causes are of
emotional or psychological origin; and removal of surplus fat by reducing food intake. Return to normal
body weight by reducing calorie intake is best done under medical supervision. Dietary fads and reducing
diets that produce quick results without effort are of doubtful effectiveness in reducing body weight and
keeping it down, and most are actually deleterious to health. (See dieting.)

Obesity is to be distinguished from overweight caused by edema (excess retention of fluids) stemming from
various diseases.