What is Obesity and Why Does it Matter?

What is Obesity and Why Does it Matter?

Obesity is a chronic, progressive, debilitating disease, that causes an over production of fat cells. These fat cells have the ability to hypertrophy or grow very large over time. People are not born with a fixed number of fat cells. People without obesity may have between 25 – 35 billion fat cells, while a person who is affected by obesity may have between 100 – 150 billion fat cells. 

Fat cells go through a natural life cycle; it is estimated that fat cells turnover rate is about ten percent a year, meaning every year ten percent of our old fat cells are replaced by new fat cellsFat cells do not divide like most other cells in the body, they grow old, and are replaced by new cells. In individuals affected by obesity, fat cells multiply and grow rapidly causing varying stages of obesity. 

Why are we affected by Obesity?

There are so many factors that contribute to obesity, one of the most noted reasons for obesity is genetics. Many people who are affected by obesity can look back in their family and identify a mother, father, sister, or brother who is also affected by obesity. Even though genetics is the most commonly discussed factor for obesity, there are other determinants that contribute to or cause obesity, for example certain medications like steroids, or environmental factors like lifestyle. Eating too many starchy, fattening foods on a regular basis, definitely play a role in the development and progression of obesity, in addition to medical causes like back pain which sometimes lead to inactivity, and inactivity contribute to obesity. Other medical related factors include heart failure and endocrine abnormalities like insulin resistance which causes the pancreas to produce more insulin than the body need, and this extra load of insulin causes the body to store fat. The point is there are numerous reasons that people are affected by obesity. To find out why a particular person is affected by obesity, the individual will need a comprehensive history with obesity specific blood work to begin the process. 

Why Does it matter that we identify and correct obesity?

Obesity is a national epidemic, there are more than 72 million American adults who are affected by this chronic disease and this disease affect many areas of people lives negatively. There are multiple negative implications to obesity, this epidemic is causing higher medical cost, and lower qualities of life. Obesity is a major contributing factor to Depression, Anxiety, Diabetes type 2, Hypertension, High Cholesterol, and Obesity related bone and joint pain or Osteoarthritis. 

In Conclusion 

Obesity is a chronic progressive disease with multiple contributing factors that cause the fat cells to grow abnormally large (hypertrophy). Obesity management is not about simply reducing numbers on the scale but addressing complications. Early treatment means addressing the root causes of obesity and removing roadblocks. Success is different for every individual; one size does not fit all when it comes to treatment and long-term success of weight loss. 

If you are affected by obesity or complications due to obesity speak to your primary care provider about a personalized treatment plan to support you on your journey to health restoration.



Flegal, K., et al. (2013) JAMA, 309(1): 71 – 82. 

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