Obesity FAQ

1. What is obesity?
Obesity is a condition where you have excess body fat such that your health is affected.
2. What is BMI?
BMI stands for body mass index. It gives a measurement of your weight relative to your height and is one of the common methods to determine the level of obesity. Your BMI is calculated by taking your weight (in kg) and dividing by the square of your height (in metres).
3. What are the different grades of obesity?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies obesity according to the following categories:
Underweight <18.5
Normal weight 18.5-24.9
Overweight 25-29.9
Obese class I 30-34.9
Obese class II 35-39.9
Obese class III >40
4. Are the grades for obesity different for different races?
The WHO classification is universal and is the same for everyone. However it is known that certain races may develop obesity related complications at lower BMIs. Hence, it is recommended that Asian races have a lower cut–off point for public health action of 23 instead of 25.
5. Other than BMI, are there other ways to measure obesity?
Waist circumference is a method that estimates abdominal fat content.
Waist measurements of >102 cm in men and 88 cm in women are the cut off points for abdominal obesity. In Asians, the recommended cut-off points are 90 cm for men and 80 cm for women.
6. What causes obesity?
Mostly, obesity is a combination of your lifestyle and your genetic background.
Genetic factors may account of 30-50% of differences in body weight between people with lifestyle making up the rest of the difference. Lifestyle factors such as food intake and exercise are the main determinants of your weight. The genes you inherit from your parents may affect your appetite and metabolism.
7. Is obesity caused by hormones?
Occasionally, obesity may be caused by a hormone problem. If you have too little thyroid hormone or too much steroid hormone in your body, these can lead to obesity.
8. What are the complications of obesity?
Obesity is associated with numerous health risks:
a) Diabetes
b) Hypertension
c) Lipid disorders
d) Heart disease
e) Cancer
f) Osteoarthritis
g) Sleep apnoea
9. What are the treatments for obesity?
There is no magic drug or special diet to lose weight. The best way to lose weight is a combination of increased activity and reduction of calories in your diet. Meal replacements can be helpful to limit your total daily calorie intake. Certain medications may help with weight loss but are only approved for short term use or have unpleasant side effects. Surgery to reduce your stomach size or bypass your stomach is sometimes useful in patients with severe obesity.
10. How much weight should I try to lose?
Due to a variety of reasons, it is difficult to lose a large amount of weight without surgery. If you are obese, it is often very difficult to reach your ideal weight. A realistic target should be set so that you do not get disappointed with your weight loss efforts. Many people can achieve a 5-10% weight loss if enough effort is put in. It is important to realise that even losing 5-10% of your weight can bring about a significant improvement in your overall health. Studies have shown that a 7% weight loss can result in a 60% reduction in the risk of developing diabetes. It is best to lose weight slowly and to try to maintain the weight loss as long as possible.

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