Weight Loss

Obesity Impacts Multiple Organ Systems

The concern with obesity is well warranted. The concern is not just related to the individual's physical appearance, but most importantly with the multiple organ systems that are affected. Most of the major organ systems from head to toe are affected by obesity.

Starting at the head (the emotions) there are psychosocial impacts such as poor self-esteem and depression. There are also neurological problems – pseudotumor cerebri. This is a process that affects the brain and appears to be a tumor, but is not. Fortunately this is reversible.

In the chest cavity the pulmonary system is compromised leading to incidence of asthma and exercise intolerance. The physiological changes in the cardiovascular system includes dyslipedemia (high blood cholesterol and triglycerides), high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and endothelial (the inner lining of blood vessels) dysfunction which leads to a change in the actions of the endothelium toward reduced vasodilation, a proinflammatory state. Endothelial dysfunction "is associated with most forms of cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, peripheral artery disease, diabetes, and chronic renal failure" (Endemann & Schiffrin, 2004).

Glomerulosclerosis (scarring of the kidneys' tiny blood vessels, the glomeruli, the functional units in the kidney that filter urine from the blood [WebMD]) affects the renal system.

The endocrine system is made up of glands that produce and secrete hormones which regulate the body's growth, metabolism (the physical and chemical processes of the body), and sexual development and function. The hormones are released into the bloodstream and may affect one or several organs throughout the body (emedicinehealth). The endocrine system is closely linked to the nervous system, and does not escape the ravages of obesity as seen in the incidence of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and precocious puberty.

The consequences of obesity on the gastrointestinal system are gallstones and steatohepatitis (inflammation of the liver caused by fat buildup).

The musculoskeletal system encounters several problems including a slipped capital femoral epiphysis (this is a hip problem that starts if the epiphysis (growing end) of the femur (thigh bone) slips from the ball of the hip joint); Blount's disease (a growth disorder of the shin bone (tibia) in which the lower leg turns inward, resembling a bowleg [MedlinePlus]); and excessive pronation (flat feet, or the phenomenon that occurs when the foot's arch begins to flatten over time).

All of these disturbances in multiple organ systems can have severely negative health outcomes for obese individuals. Prevention is better than cure, but the good news is that obesity is a reversible disease process.

Submitted by: Monica McKenzie

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