The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity
Epidemiological studies show an increase in mortality associated with overweight and obesity. Individuals who are obese (BMI ≥ 30) have a 50 to 100 percent increased risk of premature death from all causes compared to individuals with a BMI in the range of 20 to 25.16 An estimated 300,000 deaths a year may be attributable to obesity.3
Morbidity from obesity may be as great as from poverty, smoking, or problem drinking.17 Overweight and obesity are associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease; type 2 diabetes; endometrial, colon, postmenopausal breast, and other cancers; and certain musculoskeletal disorders, such as knee osteoarthritis (table 1).18 Both modest and large weight gains are associated with significantly increased risk of disease. For example, a weight gain of 11 to 18 pounds increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes to twice that of individuals who have not gained weight, while those who gain 44 pounds or more have four times the risk of type 2 diabetes.19
A gain of approximately 10 to 20 pounds results in an increased risk of coronary heart disease (nonfatal myocardial infarction and death) of 1.25 times in women20 and 1.6 times in men.21 Higher levels of body weight gain of 22 pounds in men and 44 pounds in women result in an increased coronary heart disease risk of 1.75 and 2.65, respectively.20,21 In women with a BMI of 34 or greater, the risk of developing endometrial cancer is increased by more than six times.22 Overweight and obesity are also known to exacerbate many chronic conditions such as hypertension and elevated cholesterol.23 Overweight and obese individuals also may suffer from social stigmatization, discrimination, and poor body image.24
Although obesity-associated morbidities occur most frequently in adults, important consequences of excess weight as well as antecedents of adult disease occur in overweight children and adolescents. Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become overweight or obese adults; this concern is greatest among adolescents. Type 2 diabetes, high blood lipids, and hypertension as well as early maturation and orthopedic problems also occur with increased frequency in overweight youth. A common consequence of childhood overweight is psychosocial—specifically discrimination.25
These data on the morbidity and mortality associated with overweight and obesity demonstrate the importance of the prevention of weight gain, as well as the role of obesity treatment, in maintaining and improving health and quality of life.
Last revised: January 11, 2007