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What is Adiposity?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Adiposity is the medical term for obesity and is used to describe unhealthy body weight. Obesity is a condition that often contributes to the development of secondary conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea. Treatment for obesity is usually multi-faceted in its approach, including dietary and lifestyle changes, and in some cases may necessitate the use of medication and surgery.

Obesity occurs when an individual consumes more calories than she or he burns. Those who consume a high calorie diet and foster a low-activity or sedentary lifestyle burn little to no calories, which the body ultimately stores as fat. Over time, the continued storage of these fatty cells leads to adiposity.

Individuals with adiposity possess a body weight that is greater than what is considered to be healthy for their height. The body mass index (BMI) is a standardized tool often used to calculate whether one possesses a healthy body weight for his or her stature. An individual's BMI may be calculated by dividing his or her weight (in kilograms) by his or her height (in meters squared). Those whose BMI figures to be between 25 and 30 are considered to be overweight and a BMI over 30 is indicative of morbid obesity.

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There are numerous behavioral and physiological factors that may contribute to the development of obesity. Individuals who drink excessively, overeat, or are sedentary are at the greatest risk for becoming obese. Regular use of certain medications, such as antipsychotics and antidepressants, may contribute to adiposity. Research has demonstrated that genetics may also contribute to obesity. Additional factors that may augment one’s risk for becoming obese include chronic mental illness and disability.

To establish whether an individual is obese a variety of diagnostic tests may be conducted. A complete medical history is generally taken and a physical examination performed. The physician may ask questions concerning one’s eating habits, diet content, and activity level. Blood tests may be ordered to evaluate an individual’s thyroid level and check for any abnormalities related to the production of other endocrine secretions that play a direct role in the regulation of one’s metabolism. In addition to the calculation of the individual’s BMI, his or her body fat percentage may be determined through measurements taken of his or her skin folds.

Dietary and lifestyle changes are almost always a part of any treatment approach for adiposity. Individuals generally must learn new eating habits and adopt a healthy, balanced diet. Most who seek medical attention may work closely with a licensed dietitian or nutritionist to formulate a diet plan that promotes balanced nutrition and weight loss. The adoption of healthy eating habits, such as only eating at the table and avoiding snacks with the aid of healthier habits like yoga or walking, are considered an essential part of any diet plan.

Individuals are usually encouraged to adopt a regular, balanced exercise routine and to stick with it. Exercise routines are often dependent on one’s activity level and physical ability. Some may begin with a low-impact workout and gradually increase exercise intensity, content, and frequency with time. For individuals with adiposity, the goal is to avoid being sedentary.

Treatment may also include the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications to aid with weight loss. Individuals should discuss their options with a qualified health care provider prior to starting any diet medication. Weight-loss surgery may be performed on individuals with morbid adiposity, which is often considered to be 100 or more pounds overweight with a BMI of 30 or higher. Generally reserved for situations where other treatment approaches have failed, weight-loss surgery may be performed a couple of ways.

Gastric bypass surgery involves reducing the size of an individual’s stomach and restructuring how the stomach and small intestine process food with the aid of bypass. Essentially, the lower part of the stomach is bypassed through the repositioning of the small intestine's jejunum. A second procedure, known as laparoscopic gastric banding, involves the placement of a band around the upper portion of the stomach to limit its capacity. Once the band is in place, an individual is able to feel full by eating less. Surgical weight-loss procedures are also accompanied by post-operative dietary and lifestyle changes to be employed to promote and maintain a healthy body weight.

Complications associated with obesity are generally induced by the additional stress the excess weight places on the body's systems. Serious medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease are common among those with adiposity. An individual’s risk for stroke, certain cancers, and high blood pressure are also increased if she or he is obese. Morbid obesity that is left untreated may also lead to heart failure and contribute to premature death.

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