Updated: Apr 10
Struggling to lose excess weight is common today, and it is a situation that typically requires more than a temporary adjustment (“dieting”) to our current eating pattern. Excess body weight occurs when the size and amount of fat cells increase in the body (1).
Carrying excess weight can increase the risk of health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and certain cancers, so achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is important to our health (2).
Reasons why excess weight increases our risk of chronic disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. (3). And, for more than one-third of those men and women suffering from heart disease, excess weight is the reason for the condition (4). One study found that even being mildly overweight (BMI between 25.0 and 26.9 kg/m2) can significantly increase an individual’s risk for heart disease (4). Abdominal obesity, or belly fat, in particular, increases the risk for developing other conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol which in turn are then associated with an elevated risk for heart disease (4). In addition to these conditions, excess weight can cause changes to the heart that cause it to work harder to pump blood throughout the body which increases the risk for heart disease (5).
Type 2 diabetes is a disease caused by increased blood sugar levels which is a major cause of other conditions like heart disease, stroke, blindness, and kidney disease (6). About 87% of adults with diabetes are overweight or obese, according to the CDC (7). Excess body weight is associated with cellular changes in the body that can make these cells resist insulin, which is the hormone that carries sugar from the blood into the cells to be used for energy (8). When the cells become insulin resistant, blood sugar rises which can then damage body tissue.
These are just two examples of how excess weight increases our risk for chronic conditions, excess weight is a risk factor in many health conditions today.
Steps to take to achieve a healthy weight
Achieving a healthy weight, and then maintaining that weight, can be accomplished throughout our lives once we determine the cause of the excess.
For many today, the first step toward achieving a healthy weight is to remove foods from the daily diet that may be contributing to altered fat balance and storage within the body. Foods that contain chemical substances, like obesogens, can change our metabolic set point, disrupt our energy balance, alter how our bodies regulate our hunger and satiety signals and encourage fat to accumulate which leads to excess weight stored in the body (9). Adipose tissue (fat cells) is highly susceptible to chemicals like obesogens that disrupt the endocrine system (the system that produces and secretes hormones) because fat is an endocrine organ and when it is exposed to obesogens the control of appetite and satiety is disrupted (9).
Chemicals added to our processed foods today can act as obesogens in the body. For example, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and monosodium glutamate (MSG) can act as obesogens in the body altering and disrupting normal body function (10) (11).
After removing highly-processed foods that contain body-altering chemicals from the diet, the next step is to replace those food items with whole foods that help to support healing and bring balance to the body. Whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, lean meats, and wild-caught fish.
You can read more about the health risks associated with being overweight here.