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Understanding Obesity

Major health organizations have classified obesity as a DISEASE including the World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and Center for Disease Control. 

The true definition of obesity

Couple readingMorbid obesity affects about 15 million people, or one in 50 adults, in the United States, according to the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. It is defined by being at least 100 pounds overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more. It is a life-threatening disease commonly associated with numerous detrimental health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cancer and sleep apnea. Obesity is the 2nd most common cause of death from a modifiable behavioral risk factors with an estimated number of annual deaths attributed to obesity at 112,000 - 300,000, which is more than breast cancer and colon cancer combined!*

*Mokdad AH et al. JAMA. 2003;289:76-79; Flegal KM et al. JAMA 2005;293:1861-1919; CDC 2005

In addition to quantity of life, obesity also impacts quality of life; and too commonly it interferes with social and personal activities. It can lead to low self-esteem, depression and sometimes discrimination in the workplace. It has been called “The last socially acceptable form of prejudice in our society.”

Morbid obesity is an epidemic

  • At least 300 million people worldwide are thought to be morbidly obese.*
  • By 2015, an estimated 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese worldwide. In the United States, obesity among adults, children and adolescents has markedly increased regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or educational level.*
  • In every state, more than 15% of adults are obese, and in nine states, over 30% of adults are obese.*
  • There 72.5 million obese adults in the United States and 15 million morbidly obese adults.*
  • 16.9% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese.*
  • Being morbidly obese at 20 years of age results in a loss in life expectancy of**:
    • 22 years for black males
    • 12 years for white males
    • 8 years for white females
    • 4 years for black females

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). [U.S. Obesity Trends Home Page] Atlanta, GA: Center for Disease Control and Prevention; c2011. [Updated 2011 January 26; cited 2011 January 26]. Available from: and Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Curtin LR. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999-2008. JAMA 2010; 303:235-41.

**Fontaine et al. JAMA 289:187 January 8, 2003 

Obesity is expensive!

Bar chart representing the cost of obesity

  • Annual medical costs associated with obesity are estimated to be as high as $147 billion
  • Obese people have average annual medical costs that are $1,429 more than people of normal weight
  • 45,000 die before retirement
  • Indirect Cost/Loss of Productivity: $4 billion per year and 40 million work days lost per year


How to tell if you’re obese

BMI ChartThe most common way to assess your weight and measure health risks related to your weight is through your Body mass index (BMI).

BMI is calculated using height and weight. At the UF Health Weight Loss Surgery Center, our health care team can help calculate your BMI to estimate how much body fat you have or you can check out this BMI calculator

Educational Seminars

If you are interested in finding out more about obesity, treatments for severe obesity and the outcomes of surgical treatment, please join us for an educational seminar presented monthly by UF assistant professor of surgery, Jeffrey Friedman, M.D. This event is free and open the public. All potential bariatric surgery patients must complete a seminar prior to their first consultation with a UF Health bariatric surgeon.

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