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What is obesity, and how is it treated?

Obesity - definition and symptoms

Obesity – definitions

Obesity is characterized by an abnormal, excessive accumulation of body fat, which is detrimental to the subject’s health. It is due to too much consumption of calories relatively to the energy expenditure of the body, and this for an extended period of time (usually several years).
Obesity is to be distinguished from being overweight, which is also a problem, but less significant. There is also a distinction between morbid obesity, which corresponds to a more advanced stage of obesity, reducing the patient’s life expectancy by 8 to 10 years.

Symptoms of obesity

Obesity results in an excess of adipose tissue which can be distributed in 2 different ways:

  • in the abdominal region (abdominal or android obesity)

  • in the hips, thighs and periphery (peripheral or gynoid obesity)

For hormonal reasons, Android obesity mainly affects men; gynoid obesity affects mostly women.

Obesity - key figures and data

It is estimated that in France, obesity affects 15.8% of men and 15.6% of women. In addition, it is now estimated that one in two French people is overweight. 56.8% of men and 40% of women are overweight or obese.
There are 50,000 obesity operations (bariatric surgery) each year in France. Overweight cases thus increased by 76% between 1997 and 2012.
Finally, not all territories are equal in the face of obesity. It is lower in the capital (10.7% of the population) than in Hauts-de-France (25.6%) or even in Meurthe-et-Moselle (22.9%).

Obesity - risk factors

Eating behaviour is closely linked to obesity. However, the subject’s connection to food is conditioned by a multitude of factors. An individual can take refuge in the consumption of a large number of calories to cope with a period of significant stress.

Food compulsions can also be due to deep distress, boredom, family inheritance. An unhealthy lifestyle, implying a recurrent lack of sleep, or heavy consumption of alcohol, can also increase the risk of accumulation of body fat due to a high consumption of calories.

What treatments and support for obesity ?

Treating obesity is done through a comprehensive approach that begins with the support of various specialists (psychiatrist, dietitian, sports specialists …) with which a general practitioner can put the patient in touch. To durably and effectively reduce the amount of body fat in his body, the patient must meet living conditions ensuring an expenditure of calories greater than his daily consumption.

Diet, lifestyle, sports activity and the family environment must be sustainably impacted to allow the patient to lose weight permanently. Surgery can also be considered. Bariatric surgery or obesity surgery aims to modify the way food is absorbed by the digestive system and brings together several operations related to obesity. This type of operation has a direct effect on the patient’s way of eating, but also helps motivate the patient to take control of all the aspects of his daily life that are behind his or her overweight. Surgical intervention can thus support psychotherapeutic work aimed at reducing the anxiety and depressive disorders encountered by obese patients.