How to Prevent Obesity
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How to Prevent Obesity & Its Consequences

by Dr. Lina Velikova, MD

Obesity is an excessive accumulation of fat in the body that endangers a person’s health. Before discussing how to prevent obesity, we have to address what causes it and why this condition is so serious.

In general, obesity is being of a weight that’s greater than what’s considered healthy. The obesity epidemic is getting worse all around the world. It’s particularly dangerous because it can lead to many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes, to name a few.

In this post, we’ll talk about all the ways you can prevent becoming obese, what’s causing you to gain weight, how you can lose weight and keep it off, and why that really matters.

What Is Considered Obese vs Overweight?

The World Health Organization (WHO) produced the body mass index (BMI) as an indicator to determine the presence and degree of obesity. The BMI is calculated as the body mass (in kilograms) divided by the square of the body height (in meters), and is universally expressed in units of kg/m2. Therefore, a BMI of over 25 is considered overweight, whereas over 30 is obese.

Measuring BMI is not an ideal indicator of obesity because it doesn’t take into account how muscular a person is. Also, muscles weigh more than fat tissue, so a very muscular and athletic person can easily have a BMI over 25, which doesn’t mean they have excess body weight. Because of that, some health organizations and specialists use modified formula variations that take into account gender, age, and other factors.

Whether someone is overweight vs obese, and the various degrees of obesity, are listed below:

  • A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is defined as a “pre-obese.”
  • A person with a BMI of 30 to 34.99 is defined as “obese class I.”
  • A person with a BMI of 35 to 39.99 is defined as “obese class II.”
  • A person with a BMI of or greater than 40.00 is defined as “obese class III.”

Types of Obesity

There are two forms of morbid obesity: centripetal and peripheral. The first type is characterized by fat deposits mostly around the abdomen. It is primarily typical for men. In contrast, the peripheral type has a higher fat accumulation in the hip and thighs area and is more common in women. Sometimes the two forms of obesity are defined as apple and pear-shaped due to the distinctive shape of the body.

If you’re wondering, How overweight am I? it might be useful to use another critical index: waist/hips or waist circumference. Here, too, there are individual differences between genders. You can generally go by values above 0.9 for men and 0.85 for women, which are considered the indicators of centripetal obesity.

Another measurement used to define the ideal body weight is the percentage of the total body fat. The exact correlation between it and BMI and its indicative value is still in the process of being clarified. However, for each BMI value, the percentage of body fat in females is higher than in men.

How to Prevent Obesity

The State of Obesity in the US

According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief, the estimated prevalence of obesity in the US was 39.8% in 2015–2016, affecting more than 93 million people. Moreover, the estimated annual medical cost of obesity-related disorders in the US alone is over $150 billion, where the total medical fee for people with obesity was $1,429 higher than those with a healthy weight.

Most obesity statistics also show that some of the obesity-related conditions are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death. The most concerning conditions associated with obesity include cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

As the percentage of the population over 65 increases, the prevalence of being overweight has also increased. This phenomenon of obesity in elderly people is still undergoing research and debate on treatment options. The problem is complicated because it usually accompanies additional diseases. You can read more articles in the field of senior health right here at

Overweight and truly obese elderly adults are at the end of the BMI spectrum. One of the main concerns about treating this group is that many of them don’t have a high enough level of musculature in the body, which may be worsened by weight loss. It’s clear that a well-prepared training program that maintains the right amount of muscle mass will have to accompany any chosen weight loss method.

What Causes Obesity?

In modern medicine, obesity is seen as a disease whose etiology is too complicated and multifactorial and even now is still poorly studied. The role of genetic and endocrine factors, sleep deprivation, stress, smoking, etc., are also considered.

Knowing the fundamental causes is the first step to preventing obesity. The following are the most common causes of obesity:

  • Genetics
  • Overeating
  • Frequent eating
  • A diet that’s high in simple carbs and saturated fats
  • Physical inactivity
  • Specific diseases like hypothyroidism or insulin resistance
  • Certain medications
  • Psychological factors, such as sadness, stress, or anger
  • Social issues

How Can Sugar Lead to Obesity?

Nearly every common weight loss diet is based on cutting carbs—simple, refined sugars to be more precise—and for a good reason too. High-fructose corn syrup is one of the main culprits of the modern-day obesity epidemic, in addition to the increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Why is it so bad for weight gain?

Well, for starters, it can be found everywhere—from sweets and soda to savory foods. And unlike glucose which can be used by every cell in the body, fructose is a sugar that is not a part of normal human metabolic processes, and it can only be used by liver cells. This, in turn, messes with the hormones that play a vital role in the pathophysiology of obesity which causes the following:

  • Overeating because the body doesn’t recognize fructose as effectively as it does glucose and doesn’t respond with the same levels of ghrelin (the “hunger” hormone) which is supposed to tell us when we are full.
  • Insulin resistance which leads to prediabetes and diabetes.
  • Resistance to a hormone called leptin which is secreted by fat cells and acts as a signal to the brain telling us that we have sufficient energy reserves and we don’t need to eat.
  • Sugar addiction because sugar has powerful effects on the reward systems in the brain, stimulating opiate and dopamine activity similar to some drugs.

Common Obesity Symptoms

Here are the most common symptoms and signs observed in obese people:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased or excessive BMI
  • Higher or excessive waist circumference
  • Increased accumulation of visceral fat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased sweating
  • Snoring
  • Inability to manage routine daily physical activities
  • Feeling tired
  • Back and joint pain
  • Low self-esteem and confidence
  • Feelings of isolation

Sometimes, symptoms of diabetes can be observed along with these, including extreme tiredness, thirst, and frequent urination, especially at night. Because obesity and diabetes often go together, it’s best to watch for these additional symptoms.

Why Is It Important to Prevent Obesity?

Extreme body weight is linked to various diseases, particularly high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obstructive sleep apnea, some cancers, osteoarthritis, dementia, and asthma. It has been demonstrated that obesity decreases life expectancy by an average of six to seven years: moderate obesity (BMI 30–35) reduces life expectancy by two to four years, while severe obesity (BMI 40+) lowers life expectancy by ten years.

Obesity facts and statistics also show that excessive weight gain is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the world. A BMI over 32 is associated with a doubled female mortality rate over a 16-year period. It is estimated that an additional 365,000 deaths per year are caused by obesity in America, while obesity in Europe is associated with 1 million deaths (7.7%).

The Paradox of Survival

Although the adverse effects of obesity on one’s health are fully supported by the medical evidence available, the health outcomes in some subgroups seem to improve with an increase in BMI. This is a phenomenon known as the ”obesity paradox.” This paradox of survival was first described in 1999 in obese and overweight people undergoing hemodialysis and was subsequently established in those with heart failure and peripheral arterial disease.

In people suffering from heart failure, those with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 have a lower mortality than those of average weight. This is because people often lose weight when their health is gradually getting worse. A study found that increased survival could be explained by the more aggressive treatment of people with obesity after a heart attack.

How to Prevent Obesity

How Can We Prevent Obesity?

Here are some ways through which you can prevent obesity:

  • Follow a healthy diet plan with lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and dairy products, and whole grains
  • Stop eating junk or processed foods, fatty and sugary foods
  • Use vegetable-based oil instead of animal-based fats
  • Exercise or work out routinely
  • Get enough sleep because it helps reduce stress

Fast food and obesity are mutually related since processed food, also known as junk food, means meals with limited or near nonexistent nutritional value. Nevertheless, these food products are eaten in vast quantities at entertainment or sports events, while traveling, or in front of the TV. Most often these are chocolate, sweets, ice cream, potato chips, etc. It is well-established how sugar can lead to obesity, but foods rich in saturated fats are also risky for obesity due to their high-calorie content.

Medical Options for the Treatment and Prevention of Obesity

Currently, there are a few medicines that inhibit pancreatic lipases in the gastrointestinal tract, helping prevent fats from being absorbed in the small intestine. This process promotes weight loss.

Products containing sibutramine—an oral anorexigen—were available in Europe and the US until 2010. Sibutramine works in the brain, suppressing the appearance of hunger without exerting antidepressant effects. However, it was pulled from the US and European markets due to cardiovascular risk concerns.

Moreover, neither of these types of medication can solely be used for obesity prevention if you aren’t paying attention to your caloric intake and physical activity.

Nowadays, new drugs are being developed to treat obesity. They also help suppress feelings of hunger at the central level (in the brain) and reduce the absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract while still creating a feeling of satiety, like the drugs mentioned earlier.

Bariatric surgery, or so-called weight loss surgery, is the latest treatment for people suffering from severe obesity (a BMI of 40 or more) who have failed to lose weight after dieting and increased physical activity, as well as after proper drug therapy. In some cases, a BMI above 35 may also be an indication of surgical intervention. To qualify for the surgical alternative, these patients should also be at high risk of severe complications due to obesity.

Although they lead to drastic weight loss, surgical interventions always present the risk of complications, and not everyone with a severe form of obesity is suitable for bariatric surgery.

Lifestyle Changes for Obesity Treatment and Prevention

People often ask, how can they prevent obesity? There’s no need to worry: there are some legitimate ways through which you can prevent obesity. The following section includes several tested home remedies for it. These natural remedies help you get rid of excess fat quickly but safely.

Home Remedies for Obesity

According to, these are some of the ingredients that can help you lose weight naturally:

Apple cider vinegar. It’s a great idea to begin with apple cider vinegar for weight loss. This remedy contains acetic acid, which encourages anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory processes and is the absolute best natural option to help weight loss. You should use it salad dressings or drink it twice a day mixed with water and a bit of honey to get fast results.

Cinnamon. Maybe you haven’t heard about cinnamon as a remedy, but it helps combat obesity and improves weight loss. Aside from obesity, it also helps alleviate the symptoms of heart disease and diabetes (this is especially important since around half of all cases of obesity and diabetes are linked). Use it often in low-sugar desserts or mix cinnamon powder with warm water, lemon, and a small amount of honey and drink it daily on an empty stomach.

Garlic. Yes, garlic is a great ingredient for obesity prevention. It is also an antioxidant, antibiotic, and full of vitamins and minerals. Use garlic as a remedy to get efficient results in no time. Whenever you cook, add 1–2 tsps of grated garlic to your food.

Additional Tips

To help make the prevention and control of obesity more effective, consider replacing the more caloric foods in your kitchen with fruits and vegetables. Because these contain more fiber, they create a feeling of fullness, despite having fewer calories. Consuming more whole grains and nuts at the expense of sugars and fats, especially animal-derived fats, is also effective.

Continually take note of the calorie count of everything you eat, which is labeled on each purchased product. You should know that one gram of protein or carbohydrates contains four calories, whereas one gram of fat contains a whopping nine calories. Prevention is also important because we know that most of the problems with maintaining healthy weight as an adult stem from childhood obesity.

As you can see, preparing a balanced diet that meets your energy needs while also providing the right vitamins and minerals is a complex task. It’s best to find professional help from a nutritionist who will prepare a diet tailored to your specific personal needs. To lose two pounds of fat in a week, you will need to have a calorie deficit of 7000 calories per week, or 1000 per day.

Maintaining high physical activity is crucial as you learn how to prevent obesity. It leads to successful weight loss and, perhaps even more importantly, optimal weight retention. Of course, you should increase this kind of activity gradually, keeping your individual capabilities and limits in mind. In addition to burning calories, sports accelerate your metabolism, thereby contributing to continued weight loss even after the workout is over.

So if you’re wondering how to lose weight, remember that cardio exercises will effectively contribute to the weight loss process, but don’t skip the weights as well, because they will help you keep the weight off. Increasing your muscle mass through strength training makes it easier to effectively burn calories on sustaining the body’s physiological processes, i.e, speeding up your metabolism. Namely, more muscles=more calories burned while seemingly doing nothing but sustaining the basic energy consumption of the body—the basal metabolic rate. That’s what makes maintaining your new weight so much easier.

How to Prevent Obesity


What does obesity do to your body?

Your body needs more oxygen to maintain itself when there’s excessive body fat. The heart must pump more blood to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Also, the more fat you accumulate in your arteries, the more they narrow—a condition called atherosclerosis. Because of this, the heart has to work even harder. Furthermore, obesity also makes your body more prone to conditions like diabetes and depression.

Who is at risk for obesity?

People who sleep less, eat unhealthily, and don’t have enough physical activity risk becoming obese. Additionally, obese parents usually have obese children. Genes associated with obesity, like the FMO gene (fat mass and obesity), when deactivated, stimulate the fat accumulation process.

So, is obesity genetic? Although sometimes it is a leading factor, genetic heritage is not the only factor in the genesis of obesity. Instead, obesity is brought on by multiple factors. Whether one or multiple genes lead to a predisposition to fat accumulation, the factors related to obesity also include a person’s environment and overall way of life. Therefore, if multiple members of the family are obese, this can be brought on by similar eating habits as well.

Even though scientists have suggested the substantial role that genes play when it comes to obesity, this topic still calls for more research.

What is the best diet for an obese person?

Low-carbohydrate, high-protein, ketogenic, Аtkins, paleo, etc.—the list of modern diets continues indefinitely. The truth is that any diet can be useful in the short term. The only thing required to take off a few pounds is a high-enough calorie deficit. The problem comes after the diet, when we have to maintain the new weight. Therefore, the best diet is the one that will allow you to maintain your achieved results. This is strictly individual and depends on certain conditions, personal characteristics, and preferences.

How can we stop the obesity epidemic?

It would have to start with adopting a policy that addresses both the field of nutrition and the health problems causing obesity. This includes providing information, making changes within the food industry, and encouraging research into diet and physical activity.

The goal is to promote a healthier diet and an active lifestyle for everyone while also improving education. The strategy takes into account the needs of different target groups, including people with less financial resources and fewer opportunities.

What are schools doing to prevent obesity?

According to the American Pediatric Academy, school sessions shouldn’t start before 8:30, as this can harm children’s health and learning processes. Pediatricians also announced that a lack of enough sleep increases the risk of obesity and depression. However, nutrition and physical activity should also be improved in order to prevent childhood obesity.

How can exercise prevent obesity?

Even some intensive exercise once a week can protect us from obesity. This increases the level of oxygen absorption by around 10–20%. The exercises improve glucose utilization, burning fat while decreasing blood pressure. Additionally, one of the best ways to control stress is regular physical activity.


Being overweight or obese results from an impaired energy balance. A disrupted energy balance in different individuals can be due to various factors. Individual behavior, environmental factors, and genetic factors all contribute to the complexity of the obesity epidemic. To understand how to prevent obesity, considerable effort has to be made focusing on each of these factors individually. Obesity can’t be resolved without a holistic approach.

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