Understanding Obesity

An understanding of the complexities of obesity is critical for patients and doctors who are interested in overcoming obesity. It can be hard to determine the best way to treat obesity because there is so much conflicting information about weight loss. At Texas Laparoscopic Consultants, we are dedicated to using our extensive experience in evidence-based health practices to help patients in Houston lose weight and live healthier lives.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a disease characterized by having excessive body fat. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of adults in America are obese, and about 12.5 million children and adolescents are considered obese. Morbid obesity is a more severe form of obesity, and afflicts an estimated 11 million people in the U.S. People who weigh 75-100 pounds or more over what’s considered healthy weight for their body types may be categorized as “morbidly obese.”

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity is a disease. Although many people may believe that obesity is simply the result of eating too much, it is often more complex than that. Research has shown that obesity is a combination of environmental factors and genetic composition – which can make it nearly impossible to control by dieting. Factors besides diet that may contribute to obesity include:

  • Physical Activity Level While many of our ancestors labored outdoors or in factories, the majority of modern jobs are sedentary and leave people with little time to exercise. Physical activity is important to overall health and weight maintenance.
  • Medical Conditions and Medications Medications that can be life-saving, such as corticosteroids and anti-depressants, may also cause weight gain. Certain diseases can also cause weight gain, including thyroid disorders and polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Environment Obesity researchers have found that complex factors, such as socioeconomics and demographics can contribute to overall obesity rates. Living in an area without healthy food options or easily accessible exercise spaces can increase the prevalence of obesity.
  • Social Support Individuals trying to make healthy lifestyle changes can face additional challenges if they are not supported by their family, friends, or work communities.
  • Genetics While the scientific community is still working to determine genetic causes of obesity, some researchers believe there may be a genetic influence that predisposes some individuals toward obesity.

Diseases Related to Obesity

Obesity is a chronic disease that can lead to serious health complications. Some of the co-morbidities, or obesity-related diseases, that can develop:

Type 2 Diabetes

87% percent of patients with type 2 diabetes are overweight.1 Obesity can ultimately be responsible for the development of insulin-resistance in the body, which can result in high blood sugar. This can have an effect on the nervous and circulatory system, as well as other tissues of the body.

High Cholesterol

When certain types of fats build up in the blood, they can stick to and magnify on artery walls, ultimately restricting blood flow through the arteries. This is what characterizes atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries,” which significantly increases the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

Obesity can contribute to heart disease, which is a leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease can lead to stroke, congestive heart failure, or heart attack.

Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Arthritis

Weight-bearing joints, such as the ankles, feet, knees, and hips, can become inflamed and damaged, leading to pain and decreased mobility. Arthritic conditions can also affect the spine in people who have obesity.


Obesity has been proven to increase the risk of several types of cancer, including uterine, breast, colon, kidney and pancreatic cancer.

Sleep Apnea

Patients with obesity are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing is obstructed during sleep. Sleep apnea can cause feelings of fatigue and low energy during the waking hours, and can also increase the risk of severe health conditions such as stroke and high blood pressure.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD, is a digestive condition characterized by frequent acid reflux or chronic heartburn that is caused by stomach acid escaping the stomach and flowing back into the esophagus. Obesity creates increased pressure on the stomach, which can cause or worsen GERD.

Obesity and COVID-19

While COVID-19 is not specifically related to obesity, significant scientific data does show that individuals with obesity and obesity-related diseases are at a higher risk for serious COVID-19 complications.

Obesity co-morbiditites can compromise the immune system, which may make individuals more susceptible to COVID-19. Additionally, certain obesity-related diseases and conditions can increase the risk of serious complications in people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The CDC reports that individuals with obesity are at a higher risk for a COVID-19 complication called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and that obesity may also make this complication more difficult to treat.5,6

Other obesity-related diseases that may increase COVID-19 risks include:

  • Heart Conditions and Heart Disease In individuals with a weakened heart, respiratory damage caused by COVID-19 can cause further damage and make it harder for the body to fight the virus.
  • Diabetes Not only can diabetes compromise the immune system, but it can also make it more difficult for the body to overcome viruses like COVID-19. Patients with diabetes may also require more insulin to combat increased blood sugar levels caused by hormones triggered by the immune system when fighting an illness, which could increase the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis.7
apostrophe icon Here I am 5 months PostOp, 70 pounds down! My diabetes is controlled and I don’t even take insulin anymore.
Sadie, TLC Patient

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

People can be quick to offer up dieting suggestions to those with obesity, but most people with obesity already understand how diets work because they have tried many of them! It can be very frustrating to try diet after diet, while never seeing the scale budge. People with obesity can often experience an initial weight loss, only to stall out or regain the weight. The truth is that diet and exercise alone are often not enough to treat obesity. That’s why the weight loss experts at TLC offer a range of personalized weight loss treatments.

Dieting May Not Be The Cure for Obesity

In a paper published in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, obesity treatment experts argue that obesity is primarily rooted in biological issues in the body that are unaffected by diet and exercise.2 Individuals with obesity are biologically very different from individuals of the same age, sex and bodyweight who have never had obesity, argues Dr. Christopher Ochner, the lead author of the study.

Restrictive dieting may even trigger the natural impulse to eat foods that are high in calories. This biological response may be reminiscent of the hunter-gatherer times, when humans weren’t sure when/where they’d eat again, so their bodies stored away energy in the body as fat.

Dr. Ochner, who is the Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and his team found that while lifestyle modifications may cause initial weight loss results, 80 to 95 percent of chronically obese people will eventually regain the weight.

Is There a Permanent Solution to Obesity?

If diet and exercise won’t produce the necessary results, what will?

Texas Laparoscopic Consultants and other obesity treatment experts believe that bariatric surgery is the most effective and longest-lasting treatment for obesity. Studies such as the Surgical Therapy and Medications Potentially Eradicate Diabetes Efficiently (STAMPEDE) examined the effectiveness of treatments for obese and diabetic patients, and found that over 90 percent of bariatric surgery patients were able to lose a quarter of their body weight.3

Are you tired of diets that don’t work and clothes that don’t fit? Has obesity made it difficult to participate in life or caused health complications? The team at TLC is here to talk to you about effective options for treating obesity. Contact us to learn more or to schedule a consultation appointment at our Houston office.

Weight Loss Procedures and Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery can jumpstart long-term weight loss and can also restore health and improve a number of comorbid conditions. For example, studies show that gastric sleeve surgery can improve or cure Type 2 diabetes in 70% of patients.4 An experienced weight loss doctor can help you find the non-surgical procedure or bariatric surgery that is right for you. Options include:

We are dedicated to helping Houston live healthier. Fill out our Free Insurance Check to learn if weight loss treatment may be covered by your insurance plan.

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1 http://www.diabetes.org/assets/pdfs/basics/cdc-statistics-report-2017.pdf

2 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(15)00009-1/fulltext
3 https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/clinical-trials/2014/06/06/02/16/stampede
4 Journal of Diabetes Research 2015; 2015: 674268. Published online 2015 Apr 14. Doi
5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Groups at higher risk for severe illness. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/groups-at-higher-risk.html. Accessed July 7, 2020.
6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health effects of overweight & obesity. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html. Accessed July 7, 2020.
7Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Groups at higher risk for severe illness. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/groups-at-higher-risk.html. Accessed July 7, 2020.

The TLC Surgery Doctors have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.

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