Overweight: Definition, Risk, Treatment, and How to Prevent

At the crux of several global health crises lies an omnipresent but often overlooked issue: overweight and obesity. The steady rise in the prevalence of overweight and obesity worldwide has triggered profound concerns among health professionals, governments, and individuals alike.

This increase has been associated with a parallel surge in a multitude of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. This article will provide a comprehensive examination of overweight as a condition: its definition, associated risks, treatment options, and preventive measures.

What is being Overweight?

Being overweight is a condition characterized by excessive or abnormal fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. It is generally measured using the body mass index (BMI), a numerical value derived from an individual’s weight and height. According to the World Health Organization, a BMI greater than or equal to 25 indicates overweight. This definition, while seemingly straightforward, has significant implications for the health of individuals and populations alike.

How common is being overweight?

Overweight and obesity are now so common that they are replacing more traditional public health concerns such as undernutrition and infectious diseases. Globally, approximately 2 billion adults are overweight, of which over 650 million are obese. This alarming figure is on a steady upward trajectory, highlighting the urgency of the situation.

What is the Normal Adult BMI?

Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a standard tool widely used for determining whether an individual’s weight falls within a healthy range. The normal BMI range for adults is typically categorized as 18.5 to 24.9. This classification applies to both men and women of all age groups and is universally used as an initial screening tool for overweight or obesity.

What is the Normal Adult BMI
What is the Normal Adult BMI?

What is the typical BMI at each age?

The average BMI can vary significantly based on age, as body composition changes throughout the lifespan.

Age RangeThe Average of BMIWeight Status
2-5 years16.0Normal weight
6-11 years18.0Normal weight
12-19 years22.0Normal weight
20-39 years25.0Overweight
40-59 years27.0Overweight
60+ years27.0Overweight

It’s important to note that while the above ranges provide general guidance, they do not take into account factors such as muscle mass and distribution of fat, which can vary significantly among individuals.

What are the main causes of being overweight?

Overweight and obesity are primarily caused by an energy imbalance between calories consumed and expended. This imbalance is a consequence of various complex interactions among genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Key contributors to the current overweight epidemic include an increased intake of energy-dense foods high in fats and sugars, and a decrease in physical activity due to increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

How does being overweight affect a person’s overall health?

Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for several chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. The risk of these noncommunicable diseases increases with increasing BMI. Moreover, overweight and obesity can lead to disability and premature death. Furthermore, mental health can be profoundly impacted by overweight, often leading to lower self-esteem, depression, and social isolation.

What are the potential risks associated with being overweight?

Being overweight increases the risk of numerous health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, cancers, digestive problems, bone and joint issues, and breathing problems.

What are the potential risks associated with being overweight
What are the potential risks associated with being overweight?
  • Cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke
  • Metabolic disorders including diabetes
  • Certain types of cancer, including breast and colon
  • Digestive problems, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and gallstones
  • Bone and joint issues, such as osteoarthritis
  • Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea

How does being overweight impact mental health and body image?

Overweight and obesity are frequently accompanied by stigma, discrimination, and negative stereotypes. These social disadvantages can lead to stress, low self-esteem, and low quality of life. The potential psychological impact is enormous, leading to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Furthermore, the negative body image associated with being overweight can further exacerbate these mental health issues.

What are the complications of being Overweight?

Beyond immediate health concerns, overweight can be a harbinger of more severe health complications. Notably, excessive weight gain can lead to obesity, a grave health concern in its own right. The crux of these complications lies in the biological changes triggered by excessive fat accumulation.

1. Cardiovascular diseases

Among the most dire complications of overweight are cardiovascular diseases. Excess weight, particularly when concentrated in the abdomen, is associated with increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, along with decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This lipid imbalance, combined with hypertension commonly observed in overweight individuals, exacerbates the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke.

2. High blood pressure (hypertension)

Hypertension is a pervasive complication of overweight and obesity. Elevated body mass can increase the heart’s workload, resulting in hypertensive conditions. Increased levels of insulin and insulin resistance, both common among overweight individuals, can also promote the onset of hypertension.

3. High LDL cholesterol

A consequence of overweight is often dyslipidemia, characterized by high levels of LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol, colloquially referred to as “bad” cholesterol, can accumulate in the walls of blood vessels, leading to the formation of plaques, impeding blood flow, and increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

4. Low HDL cholesterol

Alongside high LDL cholesterol, overweight individuals often exhibit reduced levels of HDL cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol serves a protective role in cardiovascular health by aiding the removal of LDL cholesterol. Consequently, low HDL cholesterol can exacerbate the negative cardiovascular impacts of high LDL cholesterol.

5. Type 2 diabetes

Overweight is a significant risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. Excessive fat tissue can result in insulin resistance, where cells fail to respond to insulin effectively. The ensuing chronic elevated blood glucose levels can damage various body systems, leading to a host of health complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

What are the long-term effects of being overweight on the body?

The long-term effects of obesity can be both physically and mentally debilitating. Obesity can:
Increase the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Lead to breathing problems and sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

What are the long term effects of being overweight on the body
What are the long-term effects of being overweight on the body?
  • Result in metabolic syndrome (a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol)
  • Cause gallstones and liver problems
  • Lead to osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints like knees and hips
  • Lead to psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem

How is being Overweight Diagnosed?

Overweight is primarily diagnosed using the Body Mass Index (BMI), a simple index of weight-for-height. It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2). In adults, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is classified as overweight. However, diagnosing overweight isn’t solely reliant on BMI. Healthcare professionals may also evaluate the distribution of body fat and overall health risk.

How is being Overweight Prevented?

Preventing overweight necessitates a holistic approach, centered on maintaining energy balance at a healthy weight, which implicates regular physical activity and a balanced diet. It’s imperative to reduce sedentary behavior, increase intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and limit the consumption of processed foods, high in sugars and unhealthy fats. Regular health check-ups and understanding one’s body signals are also critical in prevention.

How is being Overweight Treated?

The treatment of being overweight can involve a combination of dietary changes, increased physical activity, behavior changes, and sometimes medications or surgery. The primary aim is to achieve and maintain a healthier weight, which can involve losing weight, or at least preventing further weight gain. The exact approach will depend on the individual’s overall health, their willingness to participate in a weight-loss plan, and their response to different methods of weight loss.

Is a Diet an effective treatment for being Overweight?

Dietary modifications can be an effective way to combat overweight, as excess caloric intake is a primary contributor to weight gain. A balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, while limiting processed foods high in sugars and unhealthy fats, can help create a calorie deficit, necessary for weight loss. However, it is crucial to maintain a nutritionally adequate diet to prevent deficiencies and support overall health.

Can the Abs Diet help lose weight for Overweight people?

The Abs Diet, a plan focused on 12 nutrient-packed foods thought to provide all necessary vitamins, minerals, and fiber, can potentially aid in weight loss. The abs diet also promotes regular exercise and consumption of a variety of foods, which aligns with many standard weight loss guidelines. However, like any diet, its efficacy ultimately depends on maintaining a calorie deficit and consistent adherence to the plan.

What is the difference between Overweight and Obese?

While both terms denote excess body weight, they signify different levels of weight-related health risk. Overweight is characterized by a BMI of 25 to 29.9, while obesity is denoted by a BMI of 30 or more. Obesity, particularly severe obesity, presents a higher risk of comorbidities, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

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Athletic Insight Research


The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.