Obesity: Comorbidities and side effects on health

Published 11 Oct 2021 • By Claudia Lima

Obesity is a chronic illness, and has several comorbidities which means that it is a risk factor for other medical conditions.

Almost one in 6 adults suffers from obesity, that is 17% in 2020, against 15% in 2012 and 10,1% in 2002.

What are the comorbidities related to obesity?

If you want to know the answers, take a look at our article!

Obesity: Comorbidities and side effects on health

Only a few decades ago obesity was a synonym of wealth , today it is considered a real scourge. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity "is one of the worst epidemics of the XXI century and is even a public health issue".

In 2020, this worldwide problem affected more than 800 million people of all ages and social backgrounds. In the UK nearly 25% of adults are classed as obese, while 60% of the population is overweight. 

The WHO recognized obesity as a chronic condition in 1997 and it defines the disease as abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat which can affect one's health.

Many European countries class obesity as a disease: Portugal, Italy, and soon Germany. But in the UK it still isn't recognized as a chronic disease, even though it is considered to be a major health crisis for the country.

Obesity and comorbidities 

Obese patients are at risk of comorbidities, which means that they can develop other medical conditions or social and psychological disorders.

The term comorbidity has quite often been used since Covid-19. The Covid emergency reminded us about the importance of stemming such health issues as obesity. In fact, obese people have a weakened immune system, and being overweight increases the risk of developing other medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes (44% of cases) and heart conditions (23%).

Therefore, patients affected by obesity need a more complete and extended care plan.

Major conditions and health issues associated with excess weight and obesity

According to the French National Health Authority (HAS), the existing data allows with great certainty to establish a link between corporal and abdominal adiposity and the following health conditions in adults:

  • Oesophageal, pancreatic, breast and colorectal cancers, 
  • Coronary heart disease and cardio-vascular diseases: arterial hypertension, stroke, congestive heart failure, 
  • Skin complications: mycoses, skinfold issues, venous and lymphatic insufficiency, 
  • Musculoskeletal complications: osteoarthritis of the hip, 
  • Type 2 diabetes, 
  • Fertility problems, foetal abnormalities, 
  • Metabolic liver disease: hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, 
  • Cholelithiasis, the presence of gallstones in the gallbladder, 
  • Renal conditions, 
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, 
  • Respiratory conditions: asthma, sleep apnoea, hypopnea, 
  • Urinary incontinence, 
  • Back aches. 

Obesity is also an important risk factor for Covid-19, an obese patient can catch the virus more easily than a person that isn't overweight, they also take more time to get better and their risk of being hospitalised is twice as high.

Psychological and social consequences of obesity 

It is important to underline psychological and social impacts of the disease in the society where there is a cult of slimness.

On the psychological level, obesity can cause disturbed body image, low self-esteem, a sense of exclusion and depression.

Social impacts of obesity can be the following: absence from workplace which can sometimes lead to resignation or dismissal, difficulties finding a job and changes in quality of life. 

An overweight or an obese person must face the increasing stigma at all levels of society. They become isolated and suffer from discrimination, particularly at work. Women are the ones most concerned. This is called grossophobia, a worldwide phenomenon that has negative impact on health.

Fighting against obesity 

Over the years, the fight against excessive weight and obesity has become a major challenge. Obesity represents a considerable cost and is the cause of numerous health issues in the world.

It is the disease of the society, related to our lifestyle, which becomes more and more sedentary, to urbanisation and to certain inevitable factors such as hereditary and environmental predispositions. It is not only the way we consume that is in question, though today's food industry is undeniably the cause of it.

Obesity needs to be recognized as a chronic condition by the UK government so that the medical specialty could be created, and health professionals trained, to work exclusively with this disease and care for patients.

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