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. In the United States in 2018, approximately 42.4% of adults were obese (a body mass index – BMI – over  30), according to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. Even more alarming is the increasing prevalence in youth — 15.3% of 10- to 17-year-old youths were obese in 2019. Related to obesity is metabolic syndrome: a cluster of metabolic dysfunctions, which include obesity, as well as hypertension and high fat levels in the blood.

  • 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 arms and legs or 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.
  • General obesity is frequently measured by BMI but can also be measured by comparing proportions of the body. Central obesity, for example, is the waist circumference around the waist . Other obesity measurements include hip, upper and lower arm, and thigh circumferences, in addition to waist-to-hip ratio.