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Secret Side Effects of Obesity, Says Science

Carrying those extra pounds can wreck your health.

It's no secret that obesity is far more than an aesthetic concern. Having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 significantly raises your risk of a range of serious diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. But carrying those extra pounds can wreck your health in surprising ways you might not know about. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.



senior woman with adult daughter at home.

The brain and the belly are more connected than we thought. A 2020 study found that people who were overweight or obese were more likely to develop dementia, reinforcing the findings of several previous studies. Want to reduce the risk? Lose weight. "Obesity, like cardiovascular disease and stroke, is a modifiable risk factor for dementia since it generally can be countered through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise," says the National Institute on Aging.

RELATED: 9 Everyday Habits That Might Lead to Dementia


Mental Illness

Mature woman standing home alone, worried, drinking coffee.

A review of studies published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that obesity is a vicious circle: Being obese can increase the risk of depression, and being depressed can increase your risk of becoming obese. Depression may cause people to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, being sedentary, or drinking too much alcohol; that can lead to obesity, worsening depression. To reduce your risk, mind your mental health. Your healthcare provider can advise you on the right steps to take.



man comforting his depressed wife with negative pregnancy test

Obesity can seriously disrupt fertility. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that obesity is the cause of fertility problems in six percent of women who have never been pregnant before. That's because fat cells seem to have a destructive effect on hormones that regulate reproductive function. It affects men, too: A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that obese men were more likely to have a low sperm count compared to men of normal weight.


Increased Cancer Risk

Radiologist looking at the MRI scan images.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 100,000 cases of cancer diagnosed each year are due to obesity. Being overweight seems to increase the risk of several cancers, including breast, colorectal, uterine, gallbladder and kidney. Why? It could be caused by inflammation, altered cell metabolism, unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyle that often accompanies weight gain—or a combination of all four.

RELATED: Signs You're Getting One of the "Most Deadly" Cancers


Sleep Apnea

Tired woman snoring loudly in the bed

Being overweight is the #1 risk factor for sleep apnea, the National Institutes of Health says. People who are carrying excess weight often have extra fat and inflammation around the neck, which can restrict the airway. During the night, people with sleep apnea may snore and actually stop breathing for up to a minute. That raises the risk of several serious health problems, including heart disease. If you chronically snore, ask your doctor if you should be tested for sleep apnea. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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