Obesity is a condition characterized by excessive accumulation of body fat, usually due to poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle (Video).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) it represents a serious public health problem in the world, since it is one of the four main risk factors for serious chronic diseases; in Italy, in 2016-7, just over four out of ten adults ( 45.9%) and about one third of the children were obese or overweight.

The measurement of excess body fat can be done with several methods, but the most common is the body mass index (BMI or BMI = body mass index, in English). BMI is calculated according to the following formula:

BMI = weight (in kilograms - kg) divided by the square of the height (in meters)

The weight classes for adults indicated by the BMI are:

  • less than 18.5 = underweight
  • from 18.5 to 24.9 = normal weight
  • from 25 to 29.9 = overweight
  • greater than 30 = obesity

For example, a man 1.75 meters tall and weighing 80 pounds has a BMI of 26.12 and can be considered slightly overweight.

In children and young people under the age of 19, the WHO growth curves and the threshold values ​​recommended by the International Obesity Task Force, which also take into account age and sex, are used for the classification of overweight or obesity.

BMI, however, is not a very accurate measure. There are gender differences: for the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men, as do older people than younger people. sports physique may weigh more precisely thanks to the highly developed muscle mass, but for this reason it does not fall into the category overweight or obesity.

A better detection of excess fat, in particular that present in the abdominal region, can be made by measuring the waist circumference. A man with a waist circumference value equal to or greater than 94 cm or a woman with a value equal to or greater of 80 cm have, probably, an accumulation of visceral fat. This fat comes into intimate contact with the internal organs contained in the abdomen and is considered a high risk factor for the development of chronic diseases related to obesity (see below).

To evaluate more precisely any condition of overweight or obesity, it is best to contact your general practitioner (or the pediatrician of your choice in the case of children) or a specialist.



Excess weight favors the onset of numerous diseases, in particular type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart diseases, high blood pressure, the increase in "bad" cholesterol in the blood, gastro-oesophageal reflux due to rising acidic material contained in the stomach in the esophagus and, finally, some forms of cancer (esophagus, pancreas, gallbladder, colorectal, postmenopausal breast, endometrium and kidney).

Furthermore, on a psychological level, obesity can affect the quality of life and lead to problems such as low self-esteem or depression. Often, those who are obese are isolated and sometimes laughed at, making it difficult for any type of socialization. In particular, overweight children they tend to develop a difficult relationship with their body and with their peers, resulting in isolation (read the Hoax).

Obesity is often accompanied by sleep disturbances, interrupted breathing (apnea) during sleep, back and joint pain, shortness of breath after minimal exertion, tiredness and fatigue during the day.

In conclusion, obesity reduces the duration of life and worsens its quality.



Obesity does not appear suddenly but develops gradually as a result of an inadequate diet (read the Bufala) and poor physical activity (read the Bufala).

It is generally caused by the intake with foods, especially those rich in fats and sugars, of a quantity of calories greater than that burned through physical activity. The excess energy is, therefore, stored in the body in the form of fat.

Overweight and obesity can have genetic and individual causes but factors of a social and economic nature, which condition life opportunities and conditions, play a fundamental role. The consumption of foods with a high calorie content (which are often also the cheapest ones) associated with a low level of physical activity is now very widespread as people spend a lot of time sitting and move mostly by car.

The main "mistakes" of a wrong diet are:

  • eating portions that are too large for your needs
  • eat often, and in large quantities, ready-made food or "fast food" food which is generally high in fat and sugar
  • drinking too much alcohol, because alcoholic beverages contain a lot of calories
  • often eat away from home, because it can lead to adding dishes such as appetizers and desserts, not normally present in the home diet
  • drinking too many sugary drinks, including sodas and fruit juices
  • eating to seek comfort from anxiety or depression



There is no "quick fix" for obesity, it takes time and effort (read the Hoax). Regular weight monitoring, setting realistic goals, and involving friends and family in your weight loss efforts can be helpful.

If you are overweight, or obese, you should contact your doctor for advice on how to lose weight safely and make sure there are no other causes.

Typically, the best way to lose weight is to combine a healthy diet with regular physical activity.

You need to define your energy needs, also on the basis of the daily activity, and identify the type of food and the appropriate quantities to eat. In addition, you must establish a plan of physical activity even just a brisk walk of 30 minutes to 5 days or movement games for children, and not necessarily a real sports program.

You can also benefit from psychological support from a qualified health care practitioner to help change the way you think about food and eat, or, in severe cases and under medical supervision, treat obesity with drugs and surgery.

Even the loss of a small amount of weight, and the maintenance of the result obtained throughout life, significantly reduces the risk of the appearance of numerous diseases associated with obesity.



When it does not depend on a specific disease, the best way to avoid obesity is to adopt healthy lifestyles, that is, a "correct diet (eat slowly and avoid overeating or too much calorie foods) and" adequate physical activity: for example for an adult, fast walking, jogging, swimming or tennis for at least 150-300 minutes per week.



NHS Choices. Obesity (English)

Mayo Clinic. Obesity (English)

In-depth link

In-depth link

Ministry of Health. Healthy diet = expensive diet? No. Useful tips for healthy eating without spending a lot

Ministry of Health. Obesity. Don't wait, take action!

Higher Institute of Health (ISS). The OKkio health surveillance system: 2016 results

World Health Organization (WHO). Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, 2016 (English)

EpiCentro (ISS). PASSI surveillance

National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT). Data tables. Health risk factors: smoking, obesity, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle

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