What Is Overweight?

What Is Overweight?

Obesity is a growing health problem in the developed world. More than half of all Adults. Nearly 1 in 3 adults (30.7%) are overweight. More than 1 in 3 men (34.1%) and more than 1 in 4 women (27.5%) are overweight. More than 2 in 5 adults (42.4%) have obesity (including severe obesity). Many children also weigh unusually many kilograms. Obesity can cause a wide variety of ailments and can promote the development of chronic diseases. Read all important information about obesity: definition, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and therapy!

Overweight: description

The term “overweight” refers to the increase in body weight due to an excess of the normal amount of increase in body fat. In the case of severe obesity, doctors speak of obesity (obesity).

When are you overweight?

Which weight range is considered normal in the individual case and when someone is overweight essentially depends on the height. Different size-weight indices can be used to assess a person’s weight. The most famous is the body mass index (BMI):

It is calculated by dividing the body weight (in kilograms) by the square of the height (in square meters). Depending on the result, the body weight of an adult is assessed according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as follows:

BMI (kg/m2)category
< 18,5underweight
18,5 – 24,9normal weight
25 – 29,9overweight
30 – 34,9Obesity Grade I
35 – 39,9Obesity Grade II
>40Obesity grade III

‘Normal’ overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) is also called pre-obesity.

The BMI should be taken into account that it is influenced by the body and muscle mass. This means that many muscular persons can be mistakenly considered overweight according to BMI. It follows that the BMI is only limited as a sole measure of overweight.


Read more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of severe obesity in the article Adiposity.

Where are the fat pads?

In overweight, doctors distinguish two types of fat distribution – depending on where on the body, excess fat prefers to accumulate:

  • Android type (“apple type”): The fat pads are located mainly on the trunk, especially on the stomach. This fat distribution is especially visible in men.
  • Gynoid type (‘pear type’): The excess fat accumulates more and more on the buttocks and thighs. This type occurs especially in women.

The android type is associated with a higher risk for complications (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease) than the gynoid type.

Overweight: frequency

In Germany, about two-thirds of all men (67 percent) and about half of all women (53 percent) are overweight. Of these, around a quarter (23 percent of men and 24 percent of women) are even severely overweight (obese).

Overweight in children

The number of children who are overweight has been increasing for several years. You can read more about this topic in the article on childhood obesity.

Overweight: Symptoms

Obesity puts pressure on the whole organism, and the more it does, the more kilograms you put on the scales.

So the high body weight is heavy on the joints, especially those in the lower spine and on the hip, knee, and heel joints. The joints wear faster and hurt (knee pain, back pain, etc.).

More body tissue means a higher oxygen demand. In people with obesity, the lungs, therefore, have to work harder. However, she often does not get enough oxygen for all body cells. It develops a chronic lack of oxygen. This is also helped by the fact that people who are overweight often have respiratory murmurs at night (sleep apnea), which also affects oxygen intake. Snoring, little restful sleep, and sleepiness during the day are the consequences of disturbed sleep.

In addition to the lungs, the heart should also perform better in people who are overweight than in people of normal weight. This is the only way to ensure adequate circulation of very fatty tissues. This constant extra work puts a strain on the heart as well as increases blood pressure, which is also a result of being overweight. In the long run, chronic heart failure (heart failure), angina (tightness of the chest) and myocardial infarction develop in many cases.

Other symptoms of being overweight include reduced exercise capacity, rapid exhaustion, and increased sweating. Depression and social withdrawal are also more frequently observed in those affected.

Overweight: causes and risk factors

Obesity occurs when the body gets more energy than it needs in the long term. This positive energy balance has no single cause. On the contrary, several factors play a role in the rise of obesity, say experts. These factors include:

Genetic predisposition

In some families, several members are overweight. This suggests that genetic factors play a role in obesity. The so-called basal metabolic rate, for example, appears to be genetic. The basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy that a person burns at rest, therefore only the maintenance of metabolism (maintenance of organ functions and body heat, etc.) is necessary. Some people have a high basal metabolic rate, which means they can eat relatively much without being physically active, even if they are not physically active.

In contrast, people with a low basal metabolic rate use fewer calories at rest, so they gain weight quickly if they eat a little more than necessary. Such people are therefore at a greater risk of becoming overweight.

Eating habits and nutrition

As the stomach fills and the stomach wall expands, this is reported to the brain via hormones and nerve impulses. This then indicates the feeling of satiety that the body now has enough. In some people, this information is disturbed, so that it leaves the feeling of satiety until late: people, therefore, eat more than they need, which increases the risk of obesity.

Another contributor to the increasing prevalence of obesity in society is the fast food industry, which offers fast food with mostly calories and snacks – a welcome offering for people under pressure. Due to the hasty consumption, for example on the way to the next appointment or casually at the desk, the feeling of satiety is often not registered in time – in the end, you eat more than is good for you.

Lack of exercise

Many professionals have (predominantly) sedentary jobs. The way you work, the supermarket or the cinema is treated in the car. The free time at home is often spent in front of the TV or computer. Modern lifestyle is associated with a lack of exercise in many people, which not only promotes obesity and other health problems such as cardiovascular diseases.

Psychological factors

The influence of psychological factors in the development of obesity should not be underestimated. So many people seek distraction and solace in food in grief, stress, boredom, frustration, or a lack of self-confidence.


Some medicines increase the appetite, so people eat more than they normally do. It can favor the overweight. Examples of such drugs are mainly hormone preparations such as the pill, anti-allergy medicines, some psychotropic drugs, and cortisone preparations.

Other underlying diseases

Diseases of hormone-producing organs of the body can contribute to obesity. This includes, for example, hypofunction of the thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) as well as adrenal tumors.

Other factors

Educational rules and norms can also influence the development of obesity, for example, that you always eat your plate empty – even if you are already full.

Social factors can also play a role. Overweight and obesity are more prevalent in lower social strata than at higher levels, which probably have multiple causes. One of them is that the tight budget money is mostly spent on prepared meals rather than fresh vegetables and fruits. Moreover, physical activities in lower social strata often have a worse image than in higher social classes.

Overweight: investigations and diagnosis

For a more detailed explanation of obesity, the doctor will first talk in detail with the patient. Among other things, he asks about his diet, his physical activity, any complaints, and underlying illnesses, as well as psychological stress.

This is followed by a physical examination. The doctor first measures the height and weight of the patient to calculate the BMI. It is also useful to calculate the WHR ratio between the hip and the hip: this measure can be used to determine the body fat distribution pattern (android or gynoid).

For the clarification of possible concomitant or secondary fat diseases (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, dyslipidemia, etc.) further investigations are necessary. These include blood pressure measurement, EKG, blood tests, and an ultrasound examination of the liver and gallbladder.

Overweight: treatment

Not every overweight needs to be treated. If the BMI is between 25 and 30 and there are no diseases related to excess weight (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, etc.), weight loss is not essential. Patients should be careful not to continue to increase.

Obesity at a BMI between 25 and 30 should be treated as:

  • Some diseases are due to being overweight and/or
  • Some diseases are aggravated by obesity and/or
  • An Android fat distribution type is present or
  • there is significant psychosocial distress.

In the case of severe overweight (adiposity), therapy is usually recommended.

How is obesity treated?

Overweight patients who require treatment must change their nutritional and physical behavior in the long term. The weight loss should be slow to avoid weight fluctuations – the primary goal is not only lower body weight but generally a lifestyle change, especially regarding diet and physical activity. The therapy and the treatment goal can be discussed with the doctor and/or a nutritionist.


Whether overweight or normal weight – experts recommend a balanced, varied diet. Daily cereal products and potatoes (good satiety!), vegetables and fruits, and milk and dairy products should be on the menu. Meat, sausage, and eggs should only be eaten in moderation. Fish should come to the table once a week. You should eat only a little fat and high-fat food and consume sugar and salt only moderately.

It is also important to ensure adequate hydration, for example in the form of a tap or mineral water or unsweetened tea. Less favorable are lemonades and co: They usually contain a lot of sugar and too few minerals. Even with alcohol, one must be careful, among other things, because it contains a lot of calories.

Part of a healthy diet is to prepare the food nicely and gently and eat it in peace.

Physical activity and exercise

The dietary change should be accompanied by a physical exercise program to help maintain weight loss. For people with obesity, endurance sports such as walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming are particularly suitable. Any form of physical activity in everyday life, such as climbing stairs and brisk walking, is also helpful.

To counteract the loss of muscle mass in weight loss, you can do weight training, such as in the gym.

behavioral therapy

Especially in the case of severe overweight (obesity), the nutrition and exercise program must be accompanied by behavioral therapy. She supports those affected in changing their lifestyle.

Medicines and surgeries

The use of medication for weight loss and surgical methods (such as stomach reduction) are only considered in cases of severe overweight (obesity).

Overweight: disease course and prognosis

The goal of successfully losing weight and keeping the lower body weight permanently can generally only be achieved with a lifestyle change, i.e. a healthy, balanced diet and lots of physical activity. If other diseases are involved in the development of obesity (such as hypothyroidism), they must be treated first if you want to lose weight successfully.

One-sided diets that promise rapid weight loss are not recommended. On the one hand, you are not learning a healthy diet that can be maintained in the long term; on the other hand, once you’re back to eating normally, you usually gain it quickly – and often a few pounds more than before the crash diet.

Overweight: Consequences

Obesity can lead to many health problems and complications. This includes, for example, atherosclerosis (arteriosclerosis) and consequent cardiovascular diseases (such as heart failure, heart attack, and stroke). In addition, the body weight increases the risk for diabetes mellitus (diabetes), lipid metabolism disorders (such as high cholesterol), fatty liver, gout and gallstones, and joint wear (osteoarthritis).

In addition, being overweight increases the risk of cancer: in women, the risk of cervical, ovarian, and menopausal (post-menopausal) breast cancer increases, for example. In overweight men, the risk of prostate and colon cancer increases.


  • What Is Overweight?

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