Overweight and Obesity

by Michael_Koger

Overweight and obesity comprise a worldwide public health crisis.

Overweight and obesity have become a serious public health problem across the globe particularly during the last three decades. Since 1980, the greatest increase in this medical condition has taken place in the United States. Today the global prevalence of it exceeds half a million people [3]. In 2010, there were 43 million obese preschool children, and this age group has developed overweight and obesity in recent years more than ever before [1].

Obesity is a severe form of excess body weight, and both conditions predispose people to noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, hypertension, cancer, psychological depression, and osteoarthritis. When excess body weight occurs in children, there is greater risk that they will still be overweight in the adult years than children who maintain normal weight [1, 2, 3].

Obesity Present Worldwide

Overweight and obesity have long been present in high-income countries such as the United States where the consumption of saturated fat, carbohydrate, sodium, and calories is excessive.  However, it has become prevalent in low and middle-income regions of the world where undernutrition is also a public health problem [1].

Malnutrition in developing countries carries a double burden because these children not only lack adequate vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, but they are also at risk for obesity during the adult years.  This often has to do with pregnant women who do not obtain an adequate diet, and the babies become undernourished as well.  This places the offspring at risk for overweight later in life [1].

Urban areas tend to have higher rates of excess body weight than rural areas.  Rural residents are more likely to walk and ride bicycles than urban populations, and rural inhabitants engage in agricultural duties which further lower their risk for noncommunicable diseases [3].

Children at Risk

Sedentary lifestyle is responsible for many cases of obesity.  This is especially true when children spend too much time with television and computer activities.  Moreover, families that do not eat meals together place the children at risk for overweight as the diet of young people who eat irregularly tends not to meet their daily nutritional requirements [2].

Children and adolescents also tend to consume sugary drinks, and the advertising industry promotes foods which make it difficult for them to maintain a healthy weight.  Additionally, the food industry can alleviate the occurrence of weight excess through the production of food products which contain lower amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrate than current items [2, 3].

The solution to overweight and obesity requires an increase in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole grain.  Individuals must decrease their intake of calories, sodium, saturated fat, and carbohydrate.  Even though red meat contains a lot of iron and protein, it also has much saturated fat, and the recommendation is that people reduce their consumption of it.


The rise in noncommunicable diseases is the result of lifestyle issues, and reduction in the occurrence of obesity is essential to address it.


  1. Black, R., Victora, C., Walker, S. et al.  (2013).  Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries.  Lancet, 382, 427-451.
  2. Ezzati, M. and Riboli, E.  (2013).  Behavioral and dietary risk factors for noncommunicable diseases.  The New England Journal of Medicine, 369, 954-964.
  3. World Health Organization.  (2013).  Obesity.  Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  4. The photo demonstrates that the consumption of fruits and vegetables lowers the risk for noncommunicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, and heart disease.  Reprinted with permission from Centers for Disease Control/Amanda Mills.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 10/28/2013, Michael_Koger
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