Health, Opinion

Understanding Clinical Obesity

Nmesoma Okwudili


October 21, 2023

Clinical obesity, often referred to as severe or morbid obesity, is a complex and chronic medical condition characterised by an excessive accumulation of body fat. It is a global health concern, affecting millions of people of all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Understanding the causes of clinical obesity is crucial for effective prevention and management. Here are the key factors contributing to clinical obesity:

Genetic Predisposition: Genetics plays a significant role in obesity susceptibility. Research has identified multiple genes associated with obesity. Individuals with a family history of obesity are more likely to develop clinical obesity themselves.

Environmental Factors: The modern environment often promotes unhealthy lifestyles that contribute to weight gain. Factors include diet, with easy access to high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and larger portion sizes, leading to overconsumption of calories. Sedentary behaviour is prevalent due to technological advancements, with many people spending long hours sitting at desks or in front of screens. Moreover, obesogenic environments, characterised by neighbourhoods with limited access to fresh, healthy foods but easy access to fast-food outlets, can encourage poor dietary choices.

Psychological Factors: Emotional and psychological factors can drive overeating and weight gain. Stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, and a history of childhood abuse can lead to emotional eating as a coping mechanism.

Socioeconomic Factors: Socioeconomic status can influence obesity risk. Limited access to healthy foods due to financial constraints and a lack of education on nutrition can contribute to obesity, particularly in low-income populations.

Hormonal Imbalances: Some hormonal imbalances can lead to weight gain. Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism can affect metabolism and promote obesity.

Medications: Certain medications can lead to weight gain as a side effect. Common examples include antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and corticosteroids.

Poor Sleep Patterns: Inadequate sleep or disrupted sleep patterns can affect hormones that regulate appetite and lead to weight gain over time.

Dietary Choices: Consuming diets high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats while lacking fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can contribute to obesity.

Lack of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle with minimal physical activity can lead to weight gain and muscle loss, further exacerbating the problem.

Eating Habits: Irregular eating patterns, frequent snacking, and emotional eating can all contribute to excessive calorie intake.

Cultural and Social Influences: Cultural norms, peer pressure, and social influences can affect eating habits and body image perceptions, potentially leading to obesity.

Pregnancy and Postpartum Factors: Pregnancy-related weight gain and challenges in returning to pre-pregnancy weight can contribute to clinical obesity in some individuals.

Unhealthy Food Marketing: Aggressive marketing of unhealthy foods, especially to children, can influence dietary choices and contribute to weight gain.

Understanding these multifaceted causes of clinical obesity is essential for healthcare professionals and individuals alike. It underscores the need for comprehensive strategies that address not only the physical aspects but also the psychological and environmental factors contributing to this complex and widespread


Clinical obesity is associated with a wide range of physical and psychological health issues, which can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.

Cardiovascular Diseases: Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and atherosclerosis.

Type 2 Diabetes: Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, as excess fat interferes with insulin function.

Respiratory Problems: Obesity is linked to sleep apnea, asthma, and decreased lung function.

Joint Problems: Excessive weight can lead to osteoarthritis and chronic joint pain.

Mental Health: Clinical obesity can result in depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem due to social stigma and body image issues.

Increased Cancer Risk: Obesity is associated with an elevated risk of several cancers, including breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer.

Reproductive Issues: Obesity can affect fertility and increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.

Diagnosing clinical obesity involves more than just looking at the number on a scale. Healthcare professionals use various methods to assess obesity and its severity.

Body Mass Index (BMI): BMI is a widely used screening tool calculated by dividing weight (in kilograms) by height (in meters squared). A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

Waist Circumference: Abdominal fat is particularly harmful, and measuring waist circumference helps assess the risk associated with excess abdominal fat.

Physical Examination: A physical exam may reveal signs of obesity-related health issues, such as high blood pressure or skin changes.

Laboratory Tests: Blood tests can assess glucose levels, lipid profiles, and hormone levels, providing insight into the metabolic health of an individual.

The management of clinical obesity is a multidisciplinary approach that includes lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, physical activity, and sometimes medical interventions. Here are some treatment options:

Lifestyle Modification: Encouraging healthy eating habits, portion control, and regular physical activity are the foundations of obesity management.

Dietary Counseling: Working with a registered dietitian can help individuals make sustainable dietary changes tailored to their needs.

Physical Activity: Incorporating regular exercise into daily life is essential for weight loss and overall health.

Behavioural Therapy: Therapy sessions can help address emotional and psychological factors contributing to overeating.

Medications: In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe medications to aid weight loss, such as orlistat or phentermine.

Bariatric Surgery: Surgical interventions like gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy may be considered for individuals with severe clinical obesity.

Support Groups: Joining support groups can provide valuable emotional support and motivation throughout the weight loss journey.

Clinical obesity is a complex and multifaceted condition with far-reaching consequences for physical and mental health. Recognising its causes, consequences, and available treatment options is crucial for individuals affected by obesity and healthcare professionals providing care. Through a combination of lifestyle changes, behavioural therapy, and medical interventions, clinical obesity can be managed effectively, leading to improved health and well-being. Moreover, addressing the root causes and societal factors contributing to obesity is essential to prevent its further proliferation in the modern world.


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