Overweight, obesity


Overweight and obesity are abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may be harmful to health. This is due to an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.

Body mass index (BMI) is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2):

- a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight

- a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity.

What Causes Overweight and Obesity?

Body weight is the result of genetics, metabolism, environment, behavior, and culture. Therefore, the reasons for the imbalance between calorie intake and consumption vary by individual.

The most common causes of obesity and overweight include:

• Genetics and Family lifestyle

Because families share food and physical activity habits, a child who has overweight parents who eat high-calorie foods and are inactive will likely become overweight or develop obesity. Genetics has also an impact in fat regulation, as your genes may affect the amount of fat you store in your body and where you carry the extra fat.

• Emotional & psychological factors

For some people, their feelings influence their eating habits, causing them to overeat when they are bored, angry, stressed, feeling depressed….

• Environmental factors and lifestyle

- Not having places for recreation and affordable gyms can make it difficult for people to be physically active.

- Long work hours and time spent commuting may prevent people to be physically active.

- Oversized food portions served in restaurants, fast food places…

- Lack of access to healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

- Food advertising for high-calorie, high-fat snacks and sugary drinks.

- An inactive lifestyle is strongly correlated with weight gain. People who are inactive are more likely to gain weight because they burn fewer calories than they take in from food and drinks.

- Lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity because sleep affects how your body reacts to insulin and helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry or full. Moreover, people who sleep fewer hours seem to prefer foods that are higher in calories and carbohydrates, leading to overeating, weight gain, and obesity.

• Gender and age

Women are more likely than men to gain weight with the same calorie intake since they have a slower metabolism than men. After giving birth, some women find it hard to lose weight. Menopause also plays a role in weight gain.

As we age, we tend to lose muscle and our metabolism slows. That is why we tend to gain weight as we get older particularly if we do not reduce our daily caloric intake.

• Medications

Certain medicines can slow the rate at which your body burns calories or increase your appetite, leading to overweight. These medicines include some corticosteroids, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants.

• Poor eating habits

Simple carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, which in turn stimulate insulin release by the pancreas, and insulin promotes the growth of fat tissue and can cause weight gain. Overeating leads to weight gain, especially if the diet is high in fat.

Frequency of eating can also impact your weight as small frequent meals produce stable insulin levels, whereas large meals cause large spikes of insulin after meals.

• Health Conditions

Some hormone problems may cause overweight and obesity, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing's syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).


Health complications

The more body fat that you have and the more you weigh, the more likely you are to develop a number of chronic diseases, such as :

• Type 2 diabetes. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases with the degree and duration of obesity.

• High blood pressure (hypertension)

• High cholesterol

• Stroke

• Heart attack.

• Congestive heart failure

• Gallstones

• Gout

• Osteoarthritis

• Sleep apnea

For patients with a BMI over 40, life expectancy is reduced significantly


Treatment & Prevention

Overweight and obesity are largely preventable by taking the following actions:

- limit energy intake from total fats and sugars

- increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts

- engage in regular physical activity



The goal of obesity treatment is to reach and stay at a healthy weight. The initial treatment goal is usually a modest weight loss — 3 to 5 percent of your total weight. Depending on your level of obesity, your overall health and your willingness to participate in your weight-loss plan, your program will include:

• Dietary changes

Reducing calories and practicing healthier eating habits are vital to overcoming obesity. Avoid drastic and unrealistic diet changes beacause to lose weight and keep it off, you have to adopt healthy-eating habits that you can maintain over time. Ask your doctor which diet plan may be the bestfor you.

• Exercise and activity

People who are overweight or obese need to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity to prevent further weight gain or to maintain the loss of a modest amount of weight. Any extra movement helps burn calories. Making simple changes throughout your day can add up to big benefits, such as parking farther from store entrances, getting up and moving around periodically, or wearing a pedometer to track how many steps you actually take during the day.

• Behavior changes

Steps in any behavior modification program include examining your current habits to find out what factors or situations may have contributed to your obesity.


Herbs that contribute to weight loss

Mulberry leaves

Mulberry contains a compound called 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ), which chemical structure is very similar to glucose. For this reason DNJ gets preferentially absorbed and the excess glucose moves to the colon without being broken down into monosaccharide and does not get absorbed into the blood, hence helping to stabilize the level of sugar in the blood and to make you less hungry. This is why Mulberry stimulates weight loss.

Papaya leaves

Papaya's enzyme – papain- helps to promote faster digestion and to relieve constipation. And proper excretion of wastes helps to keep the body fit and fine. So when a person’s digestive system and excretory system functions properly, it becomes easier to get rid of the extra unwanted weight. That is why papaya benefits weight loss.

Moreover, the fibre part of the papaya prevents excessive hunger and targets the adipose or fat tissues of the body, making it a good diet for people suffering from overweight.


Mangosteen contains an enzyme - known as Hydroxycitric Acid - which helps boost the body’s metabolism, hence contributing to weight loss.

Moreover, because of its fiber content, Mangosteen promotes a feeling of fullness, helping to reduce the overall amount of food that is consumed. Mangosteen is therefore of a great support in any smart eating plan and exercise program for weight loss.