The Problem

photo of Dr. Eva Feldman and Dr. Brian Callaghan in the NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies Lab
Dr. Eva Feldman & Dr. Brian Callaghan

Obesity is a modern-day epidemic. According to the CDC, roughly 1 in every 5 children and 1 in every 3 adults in the United States are obese. Typically, obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater — to put this in perspective, someone who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 203 lbs or more has a BMI of at least 30. This is alarming, especially in youth, as obesity often leads to more serious health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. Untreated obesity typically worsens with time, first with metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors that include obesity), then prediabetes, and finally type 2 diabetes.

  • Obesity raises the risk of developing co-existing conditions, including type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and asthma, and is the leading risk factor of heart disease and certain types of cancer.

  • Obesity negatively impacts the peripheral nervous system, which can result in nerve damage in the legs and arms, known as peripheral neuropathy. It can also injure the network of nerves that regulate heart function.
  • Obesity damages both brain structure and function, promoting problems with cognition and thinking.
  • Obesity is usually measured by BMI, but other obesity measurements are also linked to serious health concerns. These measurements include waist-to-hip ratio and circumference of the waist (central obesity), hip, upper arm, lower arm, and thigh.