Discover the science rethink obesity animation


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Obesity. What does that word make you think of? Excess weight? Unhealthy food choices? Limited physical activity? Healthcare burden? Perhaps, but they’re only part of the story. Obesity is a serious problem for world health and today it affects over 600 million people.

But there is a science to obesity that is complex and frequently misunderstood. In simple terms, obesity develops when we consume more calories than we expend. Over time, excess energy gets stored as fat in adipose tissue, causing weight gain.

Losing that weight and keeping it off means more than just eating less and moving more. The thing is, our energy balance can be influenced by many different factors, including our physiology, genetics, environment, socioeconomic status, and psychology. And then, there’s the body’s homeostatic system, which controls appetite, energy intake and energy expenditure.

It involves several areas of the brain, including the hypothalamus, which processes hormonal and neuronal signals from other brain structures, the gastrointestinal tract, and adipose tissue. Weight loss alters this system, causing the body to increase hunger and lower the metabolic rate. The stomach also releases more of the hormone ghrelin, which serves to heighten feelings of hunger and the desire to eat.

At the same time, the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas and adipose tissue release fewer satiety signals, so the brain doesn’t recognise feelings of fullness. Hormonal shifts like these are partly why people who do lose weight often put it back on, despite their best efforts. Understanding these factors is critical in managing obesity, especially when you consider its complications, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and certain types of cancer.

Equally, obesity and excess weight can negatively impact health-related quality of life and decrease life expectancy. But the good news is, with the right care, sustained weight loss is achievable and a 5-10% reduction can make a meaningful difference to an individual’s overall health. People with obesity are motivated.

They really do want to lose weight. And they want to maintain that loss to improve their overall health. But patients can’t do it alone.

They need help. Obesity is a chronic disease that calls for long-term management. And it all starts with a different kind of conversation.