Obesity is the term used to describe a physical state in which a person is excessively overweight and their health is almost definitely jeopardised as a result. The energy intake from consumed foods is stored as fat as the body does not use it.

Obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide. There is high and increasing rates of obesity among children and adults and authorities view it as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. Degenerative diseases are directly and indirectly linked with obesity. There are also mental and emotional health problems and deterioration associated with obesity. In most westernised cultures obesity is negatively stigmatised.

People who are obese suffer from harmful social exclusion, discrimination and victimisation. Sadly, social, medical and personal problems which are all factors relating or leading to obesity in many people, are often ignored. Obesity is not new. Historical records show people have experienced obesity for many centuries. One example of this comes from Ancient Egypt. It is thought, the Ancient Egyptians, considered obesity to be a disease. This has been discovered by through ancient drawings depicting obese people displayed alongside those with other diseases. Conversely, in certain cultures and areas where food is scarce and poverty is prevalent obesity was, and sometimes still is, perceived as a symbol of wealth and social status or even fertility. Some African tribes purposely increase the weight of a bride-to-be to prepare her for child bearing. Before the wedding date can be set or ceremonial arrangements made, a slim bride is pampered with extravagant foods in order to gain weight until she reaches the suitable weight – being overweight or obese.

Over the years, although there has been increasing awareness of the causes of obesity and prevention techniques, it has now reached such high levels it is referred to as an ‘epidemic’. It is only recently, that alarming rates of obesity have caused enormous concern within the medical world as it is now seen as a public health problem.


There are two types of obesity. This theory is been based on differences between the anatomical characteristics of adipose tissues. Adipose tissue is the loose connective tissue which is responsible for energy storage in the form of fat (lipids). It also provides insulation from heat and cold and offers protective padding around vital organs e.g. the liver.

Adipose tissue contains several cell types, with the highest percentage of cells being adipocytes (more commonly known as fat cells), which contain fat droplets. The two different types of obesity are seen in children and adults, with one more predominately identified in children and the other predominately found in adults.

Hyperplasia of adipose cells – this is an increase in the number of fat cells. The number of cells can be as much as five times greater than those found in a healthy child of average weight. Fat cells can also show some enlargement, but this is not vast. The core and extremities of the human body experience hyperplasia of adipose cells.

Hypertrophy of adipose cells – this is when adipose cells are greatly enlarged or ‘hypertrophied’. The number of fat cells may be same or may increase slightly in adults. Fat distribution is mostly centralised in this type.

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