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Obes Rev. 2019 Jun;20(6):795-804. doi: 10.1111/obr.12836. Epub 2019 Mar 1.

A comprehensive diagnostic approach to detect underlying causes of obesity in adults.

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Obesity Center CGG, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Clinical Genetics, Amsterdam UMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


Obesity is a worldwide growing problem. When confronted with obesity, many health care providers focus on direct treatment of the consequences of adiposity. We plead for adequate diagnostics first, followed by an individualized treatment. We provide experience-based and evidence-based practical recommendations (illustrated by clinical examples), to detect potential underlying diseases and contributing factors. Adult patients consulting a doctor for weight gain or obesity should first be clinically assessed for underlying diseases, such as monogenetic or syndromic obesity, hypothyroidism, (cyclic) Cushing syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hypogonadism, growth hormone deficiency, and hypothalamic obesity. The most important alarm symptoms for genetic obesity are early onset obesity, dysmorphic features/congenital malformations with or without intellectual deficit, behavioral problems, hyperphagia, and/or striking family history. Importantly, also common contributing factors to weight gain should be investigated, including medication (mainly psychiatric drugs, (local) corticosteroids, insulin, and specific β-adrenergic receptor blockers), sleeping habits and quality, crash diets and yoyo-effect, smoking cessation, and alcoholism. Other associated conditions include mental factors such as chronic stress or binge-eating disorder and depression.Identifying and optimizing the underlying diseases, contributing factors, and other associated conditions may not only result in more effective and personalized treatment but could also reduce the social stigma for patients with obesity.


Diagnostics; genetic obesity; hormones; medication; secondary causes

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