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Is Obesity A Disease? Dietician, Olusola Malomo Tells All You Need To Know About The Condition

A principal dietician at the Ajeromi General Hospital, Lagos State, Olusola Malomo has warned that obesity, though often underrated can increase the risks of diabetes and cancer. In an interview granted to the PUNCH newspapers, Malomo answered all the questions that you might be curious about regarding obesity.

He explained that while obesity can be hereditary, there are a number of predisposing lifestyle and risk factors, but stated that it is preventable as well as treatable. Read excerpts from the interview below:

What Is Obesity?

Obesity isa condition in which an individual has more fat than is ideal for the body and this could result in ill-health.’

According to the World Health Organisation, obesity is identified with body mass index, using a person’s height and weight. It says that a BMI between 18 to 24.5 is normal; it is not that the individual with that range cannot come down with an illness.

It means that such an individual will not have an illness that is as a result of excess fat in the body, either subcutaneous fat (fat below the skin) or visceral fat (fat inside the body and more difficult to break down).

So, if an individual has a BMI of between 25 to 30, it is overweight; 30 to 35 is obesity grade one, while 35 to 40 is obesity grade two.

Olusola explained.

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Is Obesity A Disease?

Many people believe that obesity is not a disease and they can manage the condition without developing any complications but Mr. Malomo disagrees,

Obesity is, indeed, ranked as a disease like diabetes. Overweight is not a disease but when that crosses over to obesity, it is a disease.’

he said.

What Are The Types Of Obesity?

There are two levels – obesity grade one and obesity grade two. Grade one is the initial stage. Also, there is childhood obesity. However, morbid obesity is when your BMI is more than 40; for such an individual, it is even evident when you see the person clinically or through the outlook that there is too much fat.

Are there symptoms?

Obesity could be detected through the weight and height of a person. It could also be detected through skin folds assessments of the neck, lower arms and the folds of the back. But the most clinically friendly way is through the BMI.

READ ALSO: New Research Suggests Exercise During Pregnancy Prevent Childhood Obesity


It could be as a result of medication, dietary habit or lifestyle, like taking too much alcohol or food. Stress can also lead to obesity because there is a psycho-social aspect of eating. The brain controls a lot of things so when you are stressed up, you tend to be absent-minded; you want to take solace in eating or diffuse the stress by taking ice cream, for instance.

Predisposing Lifestyle Factors?

Sedentary activities do. There is what is called energy equilibrium, which is what you eat and what you do. If your intake is more than your expenditure, then you will add weight but if it is not, you will lose weight. If, because of your job, you spend an average of six to eight hours seated, that could predispose you because it is a sedentary activity. Eating in front of your television or eating while fiddling your mobile phone could also predispose a person to excess body fat.

How Prevalent Is The Disease In Nigeria?

It is ranked among the non-communicable diseases. It is prevalent among persons who do not have adequate time for physical activities.

When people are depressed, they tend to eat more or absent-mindedly. We also have a high proliferation of milky products which people consume every day. There is what we call nutrition in transition – we used to eat more of traditional food, but now, we eat a lot of fast food and pastries because we are held up in traffic or don’t have the time to eat at work.

I will say that food importation is putting Nigerians at risk of obesity. Many stores have imported products and a lot of people don’t read nutrition labels that show the fat or cholesterol levels.


Obesity could be detected through the weight and height of a person. It could also be detected through skin folds assessments of the neck, lower arms and the folds of the back. But the most clinically friendly way is through the BMI.

Risks Of Obesity?

When someone has obesity, such an individual is predisposed to cardiovascular condition because when the fat builds up in the artery, it could form a plaque and this plaque could increase the pressure in the blood vessel because it is causing a blockage. Obesity could also cause hormonal imbalance. An individual with obesity could also be at risk of respiratory or lung problems.

When Is Surgery Necessary To Treat Obesity?

Bariatric surgery is necessary when the weight is such that the person is morbidly obese, tried losing weight but could not. When that happens, the person needs care and has a bypass whereby part of the stomach is tied up with a gastric band.

How Can Obesity Be Prevented?

It is very important to eat healthy food in a healthy way. Coincidentally, this is the season of the World Food Day, which will be marked on October 16. We are advocating healthy eating – eating more of fibre in your food and eating more fruit and vegetables. People should develop the habit of exercising adequately, at least, 30 minutes daily. It is also good to engage in a positive lifestyle – behavioural change. Don’t eat while watching television.

We also advice people do carry out medical checkups to evaluate your health and nutritional status. These could include checking your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar. When you check your weight and calculate your body mass index, there is an ideal BMI for each person. When you are overweight, you should work towards achieving an ideal weight.


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