7 February, 2023

What Does It Mean To Be Morbidly Obese?

Class III obesity, formerly known as morbid obesity, is a complex health issue that progressively worsens and brings complications, and illnesses, and reduces a person’s quality of life.

Currently, in the United States, the percentage of obese Americans has reached almost 43%. In total, over ¾ of the adult population is considered overweight or obese. Today, we will answer popular questions such as “What does the term obese mean?” and “What is considered morbidly obese?” and discuss options for weight loss for morbidly obese individuals.

Overweight, Obese, or Morbidly Obese: How Common Are These Conditions?

National Health And Nutrition Examination data (NHANES) from 2018 revealed these startling facts about the percentage of obese Americans.

  • Almost 31% of American adults are overweight. This is equivalent to 1 in 3 adults;
  • Over 43% of adults are considered obese;
  • Almost 10% of the adult American population is morbidly obese (class III obesity).

This global epidemic as declared by the WHO (World Health Organization) not only affects adults but many children as well. Teens between the ages of 2 and 19 suffer from this condition. The NHANES data also revealed the following:

  • More than 16% of children and teens in the United States are overweight;
  • Over 19% of kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese;
  • More than 6% suffer from morbid obesity (class III obesity).

Every year, the statistics regarding obesity grow worse so these statistics are most likely more conservative than the actual current figures.

The obesity pandemic in the US

What Is The Definition Of Morbid Obesity?

Morbid obesity is an older term that is used to describe a condition that occurs when a person’s percentage of body fat becomes so elevated that it begins to cause other health conditions. When an individual reaches the level of class III obesity (morbid obesity), they can experience type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and an elevated risk for heart disease, stroke, and other serious conditions.

How do you know if your weight is at a healthy level? A universal scale that is used by most professionals as the first-line indication of an individual’s level of body fat is called a BMI scale. This scale of body mass index or BMI lists weight ranges that are proportionate to an individual’s height and places them into a weight classification category.

Determining your BMI is easy using this free tool from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Just click the link, enter your height and weight and you will get an idea of where you stand on the BMI scale. The scale runs from underweight to Class 4 obesity, which is also sometimes called Super Obese. Morbid obesity is indicated by a reading of 40 to 49.9.

Why Was The Category “Morbidly Obese” Changed To Class 3 Obesity?

In 1963, a paper was written by a doctor named J.J. Payne in an effort to convince the “powers that be” within the health insurance arena to offer insurance coverage for gastric bypass surgery for patients over a certain weight.

The term morbid obesity was used within this paper to describe individuals who were more likely to experience comorbidities (complications or other health-related conditions) because of their weight. It is a medical term but the word ‘morbid” has been misused and is now commonly perceived by the general public to mean something unpleasant, gross, or negative.

Unfortunately, using the term morbid obesity began to further confuse an already misguided public and add to the social stigma of the many people suffering from obesity. It is a common myth that obesity occurs due to an individual’s lack of willpower; however, several factors can promote weight gain that is not within their control.

The WHO (World Health Organization), doctors, researchers, and other medical professionals now use the new term Class III obesity to describe this advanced condition.

What Is Considered Morbidly Obese And How Is It Diagnosed?

People who meet the following criteria are classified as morbidly obese (class III obesity):

  • When compared to their “healthy weight” on the BMI scale, they exceed this range by over 100 pounds for their height and gender;
  • They have a BMI of 40+ or;
  • They have a BMI level of 35+ and they suffer from one or more serious health conditions because of their weight. (type 2 diabetes, severe sleep apnea, high blood pressure, etc)

BMI scale
The BMI chart is often used to make a quick determination of an individual’s health. A morbidly obese BMI does not necessarily mean that an individual definitely falls in the category of class III obesity. The BMI chart that we use today was created in the 1830s by a Belgian astronomer and mathematician who was not a medical professional. It was meant to be used to categorize groups of people during a project that he was working on with the government.

This BMI chart falls short of perfect because it does not consider many factors so it can return an inaccurate diagnosis. It does not account for those with higher muscle mass like bodybuilders or professional athletes, senior citizens, people of certain ethnic groups, or children.

While many medical professionals use the BMI chart as an initial diagnostic tool, they also use other criteria to assist them in determining the state of an individual’s health. Doctors often run a panel of laboratory tests that can identify obesity-related conditions which may include a blood count, metabolic panel, liver test, kidney function test, thyroid, hemoglobin, sleep study, and more.

What Factors Can Promote A Morbidly Obese BMI Level?

The main factor that contributes to obesity is when our bodies continue to store more fat than we burn. The underlying reasons that make one individual burn or retain more calories than another are still not fully understood.

Overeating, eating foods that are unhealthy, and lack of physical activity are the three most recognized causes of weight gain. The lesser-understood underlying reasons that can contribute to an individual’s risk for obesity include:

  • Family history and genetics;
  • Medical conditions;
  • Medications;
  • Hormone imbalances;
  • Socio-economic or geographical reasons;
  • Differences in Culture;
  • Environment.

Untreated Morbid Obesity Can Cause Serious Health Conditions Or Premature Death

Many illnesses and diseases can result from morbid obesity including the following:

  • Type II diabetes: A build-up of excess fat promotes insulin resistance and increases the risks of experiencing type 2 diabetes for every additional BMI point.
  • Heart disease: The longer an individual remains obese, the more strain is put on the heart and its ability to function properly. This strain promotes the risk of heart-related disease.
  • Metabolic syndrome: This condition occurs when an individual has at least 3 serious weight-related conditions such as unstable blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • High cholesterol: Carrying excess weight can promote the buildup of dangerous plaque in the arteries.
  • Severe sleep apnea: Obesity often causes the vital breathing passageway to become narrow, creating momentary blockages in breathing while sleeping.
  • High blood pressure: Obese individuals are almost 4 times more at risk for developing hypertension.
  • Cancer: 13 different types of cancer are associated with carrying excess weight. Excess fat promotes the production of estrogen, which is associated with several cancers.
  • Joint and mobility issues: The extra weight individuals carry due to obesity causes pressure and stress on joints that they were not designed to bear for extended lengths of time. Many obese individuals require knee and hip replacements due to joint failure.
  • Depression: Research has shown that obese adults are at increased risk of experiencing depression.

In addition to increasing the risks of developing many serious health conditions, morbid obesity can shorten a person’s life expectancy by as much as 14 years.

What Can Promote Morbidly Obese Weight Loss?

Effective methods of losing weight will be different for each individual because the underlying causes of obesity are numerous.

Finding an effective treatment for morbid obesity may involve the use of multiple strategies that may include:

  1. Multiple therapies including behavioral & psychological. Therapy can often assist patients in identifying underlying issues that are inhibiting their weight loss efforts. Once they are identified, a plan can be created to address each one.
  2. Prescription medication can be an effective tool to help patients lose weight. Weight loss medications help curb hunger and optimize metabolism. They can be used alone or in conjunction with a non-surgical weight loss procedure for optimal results.
  3. Drastic lifestyle changes can help promote weight loss such as eating healthy, getting plenty of exercises, getting enough sleep, and learning to manage stress.
  4. Nutritional education.
  5. Support groups.
  6. Bariatric surgery is an option for some patients suffering from morbid obesity. A visit to a bariatric surgeon can help identify candidacy for surgery and the type of surgical procedure that would work best.
  7. Non-surgical weight loss procedures can be an excellent solution for many morbidly obese patients. Research has shown that individuals with higher BMI levels have only a minimal chance of losing weight without some type of medical intervention.

Non-Surgical Obesity Treatment

Non-surgical weight loss procedures can help a wide range of individuals who may not normally qualify for surgery or do not wish to undergo surgery. Patients who have lower BMI levels may desire help with weight loss but do not meet the qualifications for bariatric surgery and patients who suffer from severe morbid obesity may not qualify due to poor health. The non-surgical Orbera weight loss balloon or endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty may be excellent choices to help patients lose weight without surgery.

  • The Orbera gastric balloon is a medical weight loss tool that is used temporarily to reduce the capacity of the patient’s stomach, thus preventing them from eating too much at one meal. It also helps keep the patient feeling full longer so it works to suppress their appetite. The entire procedure is completed through an endoscope that is inserted via the mouth. The endoscope has a tiny camera and a light that helps to guide the doctor while they place the balloon in the targeted location. The Orbera balloon is meant to be used during a 12-month supervised program that includes nutritional guidance, exercise coaching, and comprehensive support through any necessary medical professionals. During the six months, the balloon is placed in the patient’s stomach and the patient learns better portion control and how to make healthy lifestyle choices that promote weight loss. Once the balloon is removed, the patient continues to follow the supervised program for an additional six months. Many patients have reported weight loss of 50 or more pounds. There have also been patients who have reported losses of 100+ pounds.
  • Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) is a non-surgical procedure that delivers better weight loss results than gastric sleeve surgery. Unlike gastric sleeve surgery, ESG can be reversed because there is no permanent removal of any portion of the patient’s stomach. This endoscopic procedure is performed from the inside so there are no incisions or hospital stays involved. During the ESG procedure, the doctor reshapes the patient’s stomach and holds it in the new shape using about a dozen strategically placed sutures. The smaller stomach capacity prevents the individual from eating too much at one time and helps them to stay feeling full longer. Since the ESG is performed as an outpatient procedure, patients can return home the same day to their short recovery.

Obesity is a complex and serious condition that can cause premature death. Fortunately, it can be treated through a non-surgical weight-loss procedure, prescription medication, ongoing professional support, or a combination of these solutions. Many patients that are suffering from obesity have experienced the elimination or remission of their obesity-related health issues, including type 2 diabetes.

Whether you have a moderate amount of weight to lose or are suffering from morbid obesity (class III obesity), please contact Simmons Advanced Weight Loss Solutions today. We are here to provide the help you need to meet your weight loss goals and become healthier.

Reclaim your quality of life and your health! Set up your appointment today with one of our compassionate professionals at Simmons Advanced Weight Loss Solutions and learn more about how we can create a custom weight loss plan and provide comprehensive support that will help you achieve your weight loss goals. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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