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Does Obesity Cause Other Diseases?

March 12, 2020

It is no secret that obesity has been linked to multiple health conditions, ranging from minor to deadly. Human bodies are extremely complex systems, with near unlimited factors we can’t control. Connections have been found between obesity and an increased occurrence of: coronary heart disease, stroke, dementia, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, gallbladder cancer, liver cancer, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, breathing problems, clinical depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and functional difficulty.

While excess weight is a major risk factor for diseases, how often is it causing them? The truth is, it’s hard to say. We do know that fat plays a large role in communicating in the body, as well as, blocking some important communications. Read below about what we know about how weight contributes to other medical conditions.

Hormones Produced by Fat

Because fat tissue produces increased levels of estrogen, the more fat, the more estrogen in the body. High levels of estrogen are associated with increased risks of breast, endometrial, ovarian, and other cancers.

Fat cells also produce hormones called adipokines. These hormones either stimulate or inhibit cell growth. Leptin is one of these adipokines found, increased, in obese patients. Leptin is thought to promote cell growth. Conversely, adiponectin is found in decreased levels in the obese. It is believed to have the reverse effect. This may lead to changes in how often our cells divide and replicate, and in turn, the likelihood of cancer cells developing. This can also impact processes like fertility.

Structural Changes

Medical conditions can be directly impacted by the excess pressure and changes in structure, extra weight adds to our bodies. These include GERD, hernias, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and organ prolapse. While these conditions each have other contributing factors and underlying causes, the physical pressure excess weight puts on our abdominal cavity, veins, and pelvic floor, adds strain on our systems, causing them to more easily fail.

GERD increases the risk of conditions like Barrett’s Esophagus which is associated with esophageal cancer.

Individuals with obesity have been found to have reduced lung capacity. This makes them more prone to respiratory infections and chronic conditions, like asthma. There is also some research indicating that the presence of fat tissue in and around the breast alters the structure of the breasts. This may lead to an increase in breast cancer.

Chronic Inflammation

Obesity has been tied to chronic low-grade inflammation in the body. When the body is fighting infection, disease, or working to heal an injury, this inflammation is then compounded. Inflammatory conditions, like arthritis, tend to be more common and severe in obese patients. Further, the excess weight in obese patients causes more pain to arthritic joints that bear the increased pressure with daily activity.

Insulin & Insulin-like Growth Factor

We know that high levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor, have been linked to the development of colon cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, and endometrial cancer. It is common for obese individuals to have increase blood levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor. Insulin resistance, as this condition is known, is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes itself, is the result of this imbalance in insulin response and production. It is known to be obesity related. Type 2 diabetes comes with decrease life expectancy, greater risk for blindness, nerve damage, and an increased risk of infections and amputations.

The Bottom Line

As obesity and other diseases are studied further, we learn more about how they are related. It is obvious that obesity impacts our health, but the details of just how much, are complex. Many of the factors that contribute to obesity, may also contribute to related diseases. We know that obesity is a factor we can control. With methods like bariatric surgery, we can help patients decrease their excess weight and hopefully reduce their risk of developing other conditions.  Contact us today to start your path to weight loss!

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