Obesity is a medical problem. Persons who are overweight or obese (severely overweight) are much more likely to have health problems
than persons who maintain a healthy weight. Taking in more calories (a measure of energy supplied by food or drink) than your
body needs results in weight gain. Large portion sizes, easy access to foods
with poor nutritional value, and sedentary (inactive)
lifestyles are common factors leading to obesity. There is now a standard
way to measure overweight, obesity, or severe morbid) obesity, based on height
and weight. This standard, the body mass index (BMI), is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms
(2.2 pounds per kilogram) by the square of the height in meters (39.37 inches
per meter). A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight; 30 or more is considered
obesity; and 40 or more, morbid obesity.
The April 9, 2003, issue of JAMA is a theme issue on the
topic of obesity.
Losing just 10% of your excess body weight has been shown to have good
effects on your health. Slow weight loss (about 2 pounds per week) is most
effective in keeping off the extra weight for the long term. Making simple
lifestyle changes such as decreasing portion sizes, limiting snacks, eating
a healthy diet (emphasizing fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods), and
exercising regularly are lifelong ways to maintain a healthy weight. Consult
your doctor for specific recommendations.
High blood pressure
High blood cholesterol
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (severe
heartburn, also called GERD)
Increased risk for heart disease
Improved cardiovascular fitness
Decreased risk of developing diabetes
Lower blood pressure
Better control of high blood pressure or diabetes for those who
already have them
Beneficial effects on osteoarthritis, back pain, and depression
Improved mood and energy levels
For morbid obesity (extreme overweight), an
operation to restrict the size of the stomach may be recommended. This is
called bariatric surgery and may be offered as a
treatment for extremely obese persons or obese individuals with medical complications
of obesity. Bariatric operations are major surgery and have risks as well
as possible benefits.
American Dietetic Associationhttp://www.eatright.org
American Obesity Organizationhttp://www.obesity.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Body Mass Index Web
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
Index on JAMA ’s Web site at http://www.jama.com. They
are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on bariatric surgery
was published in the December 11, 2002, issue; one on obesity was published
in the October 27, 1999, issue; one on healthful eating was published in the
October 6,1999, issue; and one on weight management was published in the January
20, 1999, issue.
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA . The
information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in
most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific
information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests
that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially
by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients.
Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval. To purchase
bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of the Surgeon
General, US Department of Health and Human Services
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Obesity. JAMA. 2003;289(14):1880. doi:10.1001/jama.289.14.1775