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Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 1998;106 Suppl 2:1-6.

What are the health risks? The medical consequences of obesity and its health risks.

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  • 1Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.


It is important to establish what the medical view of obesity should be. An important step is the development of a standardised definition of obesity. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has proposed body mass index (BMI) as a simple measure of obesity. Whereas BMI has great clinical utility, it should be remembered that calculation of a raised BMI does not automatically indicate a high degree of adiposity. This is because BMI does not distinguish between weight due to excess fat, and weight due to a large mass of muscle or bone. Gender and age also have to be considered when evaluating BMI measurements. Obesity is related to many disorders, most of which are metabolic in origin. For example, hypertension and the adverse lipid profile associated with obesity increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). There is also a profound association between obesity, particularly intra-abdominal adiposity, and the development of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. This is paralleled by an increasing incidence of NIDDM. There is no doubt that weight gain and obesity are major clinical problems, which need to be prevented and managed more effectively. This is essential, given the role of obesity in many of the chronic health problems affecting westernised societies.

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