Growing Waistline, Gaining Health Problems

Obesity linked to other serious health problems in recent study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet may not just be adding pounds to your frame—it could be taking years from your life.

A recent study looked at people who were normal weight, those who were overweight, and those who were obese to see if they developed other health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.

The researchers found that, as people became more and more overweight, their risk of developing other health problems increased. Depression, back pain and joint problems were among the most commonly reported conditions.

The authors of the study suggested that both doctors and patients should be aware of the health impact of being overweight and obese in order to prevent other possible conditions.

"If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about reducing your risk for other diseases."

Helen Booth of the Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King's College London, led the study to see how obesity affected the odds of developing other health conditions.

In previous studies, obesity has been linked to type II diabetes, heart disease, and depression, according to the authors of the study.

This study looked at 11 conditions to see which ones were most common in people who are overweight or obese.

The researchers used the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a database that includes health records from UK family practices.

223,089 adults who were overweight or obese were included in the study, and the researchers looked at their health records from 2005 to 2011.

The participants' BMI, or body mass index, was recorded. Body mass index is a number based on a patient's height and weight which is used to determine if the person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.

People with BMIs between 18.5 and 24.9 are characterized as normal weight. Overweight people have a BMI between 25 and 29.9. Obese people have BMIs in three categories: category I, 30-34.9; category II, 35-39.9; and category III, greater than 40.

The researchers recorded which participants had been diagnosed with two or more of 11 conditions:

  • Heart disease (heart problems typically from high blood pressure or clogged arteries)
  • Stroke (loss of blood supply to the brain)
  • Asthma (inflammation in the airways)
  • Sleep apnea (shallow or paused breathing during sleep)
  • Type II diabetes (when the body has chronic high blood sugar)
  • Neoplasms (a tumor or other abnormal growth)
  • Gallbladder problems (gallbladders secrete bile, which helps break down food)
  • Back pain
  • Osteoarthritis (breaking down of joints and cartilage)
  • Other joint pain
  • Depression (chronically low mood)

Each of the conditions vary in severity, but many can be life-threatening.

The researchers found that 23.1 percent of men and 27.6 percent of women who had a normal weight had at least two of these conditions.

That number rose as BMI increased. About 27 percent of overweight men and 34.2 percent of overweight women had at least two of the conditions. For people who were category III obese with a BMI that was 40 or greater, 43.8 percent of men and 51.2 percent of women had two or more of the conditions.

The most prevalent conditions were depression, back pain, and joint problems.

The researchers also found that people with category III obesity were 124 percent more likely than people at a normal weight to have at least one of the 11 conditions.

Additionally, participants who were smokers were 13 percent more likely to have one or more of the conditions, regardless of weight.

The researchers suggested that doctors should be aware of the health problems associated with obesity and work with overweight and obese patients to reduce the risk of developing other conditions.

"It has long been noted that overweight and obesity has multiple negative effects on overall health," said Ian Yamane, DC, of Valhalla Wellness in Las Vegas, Nevada. "Losing weight by a combination of healthy meal planning (including lean proteins, vegetables and good fats) combined with appropriate exercise, can produce the most beneficial long-term results."

The article was published in Family Practice on October 16.

The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre and the UK National Prevention Research Initiative. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 17, 2013
Last Updated:
October 22, 2013