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Why Weight Matters: Obesity and Your Health

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Summary & Participants

Think watching your weight is just a cosmetic concern? Think again. Gaining too much weight can lead to serious health risks, and an estimated 300,000 Americans die every year from obesity-related problems. Tune in for an expert look at the causes and consequences of obesity.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2012

Webcast Transcript

VAREN BLACK: I'm Varen Black. Welcome to Chicago Health, where we talk to some of the best minds in medicine who live right here in our city.

We all know what too much steak and sausage can do to our waistlines. Nobody likes going up a size. But suffering from obesity is another problem all together.

Joining me to talk about obesity and its consequences is Dr. Robert Kushner, Director of the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Kushner, how big is the problem of obesity?

ROBERT KUSHNER, MD: It's the most serious problem we are facing today. Next to cigarette smoking, overweight is the second leading cause of preventable death in this country. It's estimated that 300,000 deaths per year is attributable to our diet, physical inactivity and resulting obesity.

VAREN BLACK: A fourth of American adults are obese?

ROBERT KUSHNER, MD: One in four is obese, and about one in three is considered overweight. Combined, over 60 percent of adult Americans are now overweight or obese. That means that the minority of this population is able to maintain a healthy body weight.

VAREN BLACK: We're now hearing a lot about children being obese. What is the number there?

ROBERT KUSHNER, MD: Well, there it's about 1 in 10 or 10 percent. The troubling factor there is that they are following in our oversized footsteps. An overweight or obese child is more likely to be an obese adult. So we are unfortunately looking at an epidemic among our children as they become adults, and are likely to be more obese than we are today.

VAREN BLACK: Why has the number of heavy people increased?

ROBERT KUSHNER, MD: That's still debatable, and a lot of research is looking into that. But most of us think that it's due to our society and culture. We really live in an obesogenic society where food is plentiful, physical inactivity is everywhere.Those two combined leads to gaining weight.

VAREN BLACK: How is obesity defined?

ROBERT KUSHNER, MD: We currently define obesity by using a term called the body mass index, also known as the BMI. Of course, everyone knows their cholesterol and everyone knows their blood pressure. It's equally important that everyone knows their BMI. It's a weight for height relationship that's fairly easily calculated on tables. A BMI between 25 and 30 is defined as overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is obese.

Roughly speaking, about 30 or more pounds overweight already defines one as obese.

VAREN BLACK: Just 30 pounds?

ROBERT KUSHNER, MD: Just 30 pounds. It doesn't take much to have the health complications that are associated with obesity.

VAREN BLACK: Talk about those complications, the health effects of obesity.

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