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Types of obesity: characteristics and risks

Types of obesity: characteristics and risks

May 10, 2021

Obesity is a chronic disease with a high prevalence worldwide that is usually associated with a multitude of health complications.

Scientific data show that this phenomenon seems to be increasing in recent years, so it has become a public health problem, especially in developed countries.

Overweight: a worrisome reality ...

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2015) states that in the world there are 1,900 million adults who are overweight , of which, more than 600 million suffer from obesity. In Spain, obesity has also become a serious problem, and this is confirmed by the data of the ENRICA study, which concludes that 39% of the Spanish population is overweight and 22.9% is obese.


Due to the complexity of this phenomenon, the most effective treatment to combat this condition is composed of three basic pillars: nutrition, psychological aspects and physical exercise .

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Causes of obesity

Obesity is a multicausal phenomenon and, therefore, the causes are due to several factors: those of genetic and endocrine origin, which account for 30%, and those of environmental origin, which represent 70% .

The latter include excessive food intake, especially unhealthy products, lack of physical exercise and, in general, a sedentary lifestyle.


Obesity and serious health problems

Obesity brings serious problems for the health of people affected with this condition . As Miguel Soca and Niño Peña conclude in a research carried out in 2009: "Obesity can cause a set of metabolic abnormalities, called metabolic syndrome (MS): a series of disorders characterized by glucose intolerance, diabetes, lipid alterations. in the blood and increase in blood pressure. "

Likewise, obesity negatively affects hope and quality of life, as well as body aesthetics, which, consequently, can cause social and psychological problems for the individual with this condition.

Diagnosis of obesity

Obesity is diagnosed, rather than by weight, by the individual's body fat percentage. In general, in adult men, approximately 12-20% of their body weight is composed of fat. In the case of women, the percentage is a little higher, 20-30%, mainly due to hormones such as estrogen.


At present, there are different methods that exist to quantify the percentage of body fat. Biompedance, X-ray engineering or densitometry are some examples. However, one of the most used methods is the Body Mass Index (BMI), obtained by the relationship between weight expressed in kilograms and height in meters squared (BMI: Weight / height2). With the result of this index overweight is defined as individuals with BMI equal to or greater than 25 kg / m2 and obese to those who have a BMI equal to or greater than 30 kg / m2 .

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Calculating body fat percentage

BMI is an easy measure to obtain, with a high correlation with body composition, and is useful as a diagnostic value. Further, The higher the BMI an individual has, the greater the possibility of developing morbidities associated with excess fat . However, the BMI has its limitations and has been criticized for not allowing to differentiate between the percentage of fat and muscle mass.

If the percentage of fat mass is considered, obesity corresponds to a fat percentage higher than 25% in men and 30% in women. To estimate the percentage of body fat, skin folds are a very valid option. With this method it is necessary to do the sum of four folds: the bicipital, tricipital, subscapular and suprailiac

Finally, another of the measures used to diagnose obesity is the waist-hip index (ICC), a specific anthropometric tool for measuring intra-abdominal fat levels. This formula allows you to divide the perimeter of the waist between that of the hip (ICC: waist circumference in centimeters / hip circumference in centimeters). The WHO establishes normal levels for the waist-hip ratio of approximately 0.8 in women and 1 in men.

Types of obesity

Obesity can be classified in different ways depending on the criteria established . One of the most used classifications is based on the distribution of body fat, in which there are three categories. According to the SEEDO Consensus (2007), they are the following:

1. Obesity of homogeneous distribution

The excess of fat does not predominate in any area of ​​the body, for that reason it receives the name of obesity of homogeneous distribution.

2. Ginoid or peripheral obesity (pear-shaped)

The fat is located basically on the hips and thighs. This type of distribution is mainly related to problems of venous return in the lower extremities (varicose veins) and knee osteoarthritis. Women are more prone to suffer from this type of obesity.

3. Android, central or abdominal obesity (in the form of an apple)

The excess of fat is located in the area on the face, thorax and abdomen. It is associated with an increased risk of dyslipidemia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality. This type of obesity is more common in men than in women.

Other classifications of obesity

In addition to the previous classification, there are others such as the following:

Types of obesity by degree of risk

According to the consensus of the Spanish Society for the Study of Obesity (SEEDO 2007), obesity can also be classified as follows considering the BMI:

  • Insufficient weight : The weight is below normal. The BMI is less than 18.5 kg / m2. It is not considered overweight.
  • Normopeso : It is the normal weight of a person with respect to his height. The BMI is the ideal: 18.5-24.9 kg / m2. It is not considered overweight.
  • Overweight : Overweight occurs when the person weighs more than they should weigh according to their height. BMI 25-26.9 kg / m2.
  • Overweight II : The person has a higher weight than he should have for his height but without being obese. BMI 27.29.9 kg / m2.
  • Obesity type I : First degree of obesity. BMI 30-34.9 kg / m2.
  • Obesity type II : Second degree of obesity BMI 35-39.9 kg / m2.
  • Obesity type III : This type of obesity is also called morbid obesity. BMI 40-49.9 kg / m2.
  • Obesity type IV : This type of obesity is also known as extreme obesity. BMI greater than 50 kg / m2.

Types of obesity according to the cause

Depending on the source of obesity, it can be:

  • Genetic obesity : the individual has received the genetic inheritance or predisposition to be obese.
  • Dietary obesity : characterized by a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy food intake.
  • Obesity due to maladjustment : The person never feels satiated by a mismatch in the system of regulation of hunger.
  • Obesity due to thermogenic defect : The body does not burn calories efficiently.
  • Nervous type obesity : Obesity is caused by psychological problems such as anxiety, stress and depression.
  • Obesity due to endocrine diseases : It is obesity caused by hormonal diseases, for example, hyperthyroidism.
  • Chromosomal obesity : This type of obesity is associated with chromosomal defects.

Bibliographic references:

  • Rodríguez Artalejo F. (2011) Epidemiology of obesity in Spain: ENRICA study. V NAOS Convention. Madrid: Center for Biomedical Research in the Epidemiology and Public Health network.

What BMI doesn't tell you about your health (May 2021).


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