What is obesity?

Obesity is defined as excessive body weight, which predisposes to serious health problems due to an increase in body fat. This increased body fat increases the risk of developing diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and some forms of cancer.


What is the incidence of the disease?

The incidence of obesity is on the rise, across all age groups, having reached global epidemic proportions. In Greece 25% of the population is obese.


How is obesity diagnosed?

Measurement of the body mass index is generally accepted as a measure of the body fat content and the degree of obesity. It is a screening tool of normal or abnormal body weight. It is usually accompanied by measurement of waist circumference.


What are the causes of obesity?

There are several causes of obesity. However, in most cases obesity is caused by a combination of:

  • Increased calorie consumption, unhealthy diet and
  • Sedentary life

leading to a disturbance in the balance between food intake and energy expenditure. Other factors that lead or contribute to obesity are:


What is Leptin?

Leptin is a hormone that is released from the cells of adipose tissue and informs the brain about the body’s energy levels, meaning the amount of fat in our body. In the brain, and in particular in the hypothalamus, there is a complex neuroendocrine network, including both orexigenic and anorexigenic neurons. Leptin, along with other hormones secreted by the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates anorexigenic neurons and inhibits the orexigenic ones. A series of interdependent signals will eventually lead to appetite inhibition and consumption of stored energy.


What are the complications of obesity?

The most serious complications of both obesity and overweight are:

  • Reduction in life expectancy by an average of about 3 years
  • Reduction in the quality of life
  • More severe disease from COVID-19 virus
  • Ischaemic cardiovascular disease
  • Strokes
  • Thromboses
  • Dyslipidaemia (elevated cholesterol)
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Various types of cancer, such as endometrial, breast, bowel and colon cancers
  • Infertility
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Depression
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea

What should I do if I am diagnosed with obesity?

After the diagnosis of obesity or overweight, the endocrinologist should investigate the cause of obesity, the possible complications of the increased body weight and the risk of each patient developing one or more of the obesity-related complications. This includes history, physical examination, blood tests and depending the case, imaging tests.


How is obesity treated?

The goal of obesity treatment is to prevent or treat the complications of obesity and improve the patient’s quality of life. Treatment must be individualised to achieve the goal. The cornerstone of the treatment is to help patients make changes in their eating behaviour aiming to restore the balance between energy intake and energy expenditure:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Behavioural modification
  • Pharmacological treatment
  • Bariatric surgery