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Is obesity a disease?

Many experts recognise obesity as a disease. Learn more about the debate over
obesity as a disease and what it means for people living with obesity.

All about obesity

Obesity is a disease that develops when there's an excess amount of body fat. It's a chronic disease, or a long-lasting condition. Chronic diseases may require ongoing medication attention or may limit activities and daily living, or both. Obesity is linked to other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and many more. Obesity is actually linked to more than 200 comorbidities. It's also a serious condition (with its own symptoms, complications, and causes) on its own.

How to screen for obesity?

To find out if you're living with obesity and to get a formal obesity diagnosis, it's important to talk to your Health Care Professional. One simple way to screen for obesity is to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI).

The Body Mass Index (BMI) classifies underweight, overweight, and obesity in adults based on 
their height and weight. Here you can see the different BMI classes for who is considered a person with obesity.

BMI Classification  Underweight — Below 18.5 kg/m²
   Normal — 18.5–24.9 kg/m²
   Overweight — 25.0–29.9 kg/m²
   Obesity Class I — 30.0-34.9 kg/m²
   Obesity Class II — 35.0–39.9 kg/m²
   Obesity Class III — Above 40 kg/m²

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What are the symptoms of obesity?

Having an excess amount of fat on the body is the most obvious symptom of obesity. But, there are also other symptoms you may experience if you're living with obesity. These can include:

  • Problems moving and doing physical activity, such as walking or climbing stairs.
  • Having uncomfortable, fast, or difficult breathing. You may feel puffed, short of breath, or winded.
  • Sweating more.
  • Starting snoring or snoring more frequently.
  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • Body pains.
  • Having low confidence and self-esteem.
  • Feeling isolated.
  • Having depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

If these symptoms sound familiar, it may be a good idea to talk to your health care professional. Understanding obesity and your own situation will be helpful when you explore what you can do to help you manage weight and keep it off.

What causes obesity?

There are many things that can cause a person to gain weight and develop obesity. Health professionals recognise that obesity is a disease that's caused by genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors combined. 

June 2024; IE24OB00180