Obesity Resource Center
Beyond overeating and physical inactivity, several underlying medical conditions exist that either increase the risk of obesity, are directly caused by obesity,or both. Since this condition is inextricably linked to other common disorders, a comprehensive strategy that tackles weight gain along with the conditions listed below can greatly improve health.
As a Cause:
The link between obesity and diabetes is intimate and complex. It’s clear that diet and lifestyle related diabetes involves a high intake of carbohydrates and sugars without sufficient energy burning, adds to excess weight gain. Biologically, research shows that in the case of Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome, insulin resistance prevents glucose from entering our cells thus elevating blood glucose levels. This elevated glucose is then converted into fatty acids and with the aid of insulin the glucose is stored as fat in adipose tissue, resulting in obesity.
As an Effect:
Being overweight or obese puts one a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes, particularly those with excess belly fat. When a person is obese, the cells in the body become less responsive to the insulin released from the pancreas. Therefore, they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes due to their condition. Obesity is also linked to metabolic changes that cause adipose tissue to release fat molecules into the bloodstream, which can negatively impact insulin sensitivity.
As a Cause:
Basal metabolism, thermogenesis, and fat oxidation is regulated by the thyroid hormone. Changes in the thyroid hormone (TSH) can lead to the production of too much or too little of the hormone (hyperthyroidism), which causes the metabolism to slow down as well as decreased thermogenesis, causing weight gain.
As an Effect:
Studies have linked higher BMI’s with higher TSH levels, though its direct link is not yet thoroughly understood.
As a Cause:
Obesity and depression are inextricably linked as one intensifies the other and vice or versa. Behaviorally, depression is linked to addiction and a lack of self-control. Coping mechanisms in the case of overeating, binge eating, and general self-neglect are strong contributing obesity factors if not addressed. Depression tends to have a direct impact on appetite, whether it be an issue of control or a dramatic reduction of appetite. It also impacts one’s desire to eat properly and engage in routine physical activity. Nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate depression as well. A high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy fats, amino acids, vital minerals, and antioxidants can help improve mental and physical health.
Obese patients are likely to exhibit symptoms of depression beyond food intake, such as isolation, suicidal thoughts, feelings of low self-worth, mood swings, co-occurring addictions, and reckless behavior.
As an Effect:
A higher BMI is associated with a higher risk for clinically diagnosed depression. Obesity drastically limits one’s ability to participate in normal activities which can lead to frustration as well as isolation. It also has negative impacts on one’s body image, causing seclusion and loneliness leading to depression as a result of their condition. Poor diet habits and decreased gut health are also linked to low energy levels, poor sleep, irritability, and fatigue; all of which can set the stage for depression.
As a Cause:
Anxiety includes a hybrid of mental and physical symptoms that can occur. Anxiety due to PTDS, other trauma, or hormonal imbalances may trigger social isolation, depressive behaviors, and unhealthy coping strategies, such as overeating. Research shows that patients with mental health disorders, including anxiety are more likely to become obese than those without. Social phobia, and panic disorder is also linked with the isolation and coping mechanisms that can breed an environment for obesity development.
As an Effect:
An obese person can develop symptoms of anxiety which inhibits the desire to participate in social and physical activities. Anxiety regarding weight can impact the relationship to food if a dependency is involved, making it harder to change eating habits for fear of panic and distress.
As a Cause
Quality sleep and duration is a major factor in maintaining a healthy body weight. Research shows that chronic, poor sleep is associated with an increase in body fat. Short durations of sleep alone won’t cause obesity, but it is a factor in steady weight gain, muscle repair, energy levels, and impairs metabolic functioning.
As an Effect
Obese patients are significantly more likely to report insomnia or irregular sleep patterns. Common factors that affect an obese patient’s inability to sleep are: a lack of physical activity, aches and pains, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea or difficulty breathing, hunger pangs, and hormone imbalances.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing stops during sleep for approximately 10 seconds or more. The most common cause of this disorder is excess weight, which can gather around the neck area causing a blocked airway. Sleep apnea can become life-threatening by cutting off oxygen to the bloodstream, affecting the heart and brain. Loud snoring, sudden awakenings to gasp for breath, and excessive daytime sleepiness are all symptoms of sleep apnea. Doctors can administer sleep tests to see if you have this disorder, and one of the best remedies for sleep apnea is weight loss.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and utilizes a face mask or nosepiece, as well as a hose to maintain constant air pressure to your nose and throat. Again, increasing your daily exercise can aid in weight loss, as well as improve breathing and circulation which can help to reduce or eliminate the need for a CPAP machine if your sleep apnea is weight-related. Be sure to clear it with your physician first.
Some common medications are linked to weight gain, and while they may not be the sole cause of obesity, they can contribute to modest amounts of weight gain as well as interfere with certain metabolic and hormonal processes that make weight loss more efficient.
Corticosteroids prescribed for pain, asthma, lupus, skin rashes and other medical conditions are known to cause weight gain and fluid retention. This is due to the corticosteroid effect on the endocrine system, lipid and glucose metabolism, appetite, and fat accumulation. Corticosteroids may also affect the adrenal glands, having been linked to an increased risk of adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal gland insufficiency can cause a variety of hormonal imbalances in the form of DHEA and cortisol (see above) which can stimulate weight gain. The most common corticosteroids are:
Certain antidepressants or SSRI’s have been associated with fluctuations in body weight. Some sources estimate that approximately 25 percent of people using antidepressants see their weight increase due to the impact they may have on the neurotransmitter serotonin that regulates appetite and mood. Types of antidepressants that have been shown to lead to potential weight gain are:
Depression in general affects mood, appetite, activity level, and behavior. So, those on antidepressants may already be predisposed to weight gain given the nature of the condition.
While epilepsy hasn’t been associated with weight, pharmaceutical treatments for epilepsy do seem to contribute to weight gain or weight loss as a side effect. Scientists have discovered that the BDNF protein plays an important part in appetite suppression. Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) might lower levels of BDNF, prompting overeating and elevating one’s obesity risk. Gabapentin and pregabalin are among the most prescribed antiepileptic drugs that may cause weight gain.
While high blood pressure is often a side effect of excess weight, some medications used to treat hypertension such as Beta Blockers can slow the metabolism, causing weight gain. Atenolol (Tenormin) and metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL) have been shown to cause a modest weight gain averaging 2.6 pounds. Fluid retention might also be a side effect of beta blockers, causing a boost in weight. However, gaining any more than 2-3 pounds in fluid retention can be dangerous, so be sure to visit your doctor if this is occurring.