Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.


Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

Charting obesity

In the UK, the prevalence of obesity is continuing to grow, bringing with it a whole host of hidden diseases affecting a number of body systems — from cardiovascular to skeletal.   

How obesity affects the different body systems

To view the full infographic, click here

Obesity in the UK and OECD nations

Obesity in the UK and OECD nations

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

* The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) includes 35 member countries from North and South America to Europe and Asia-Pacific
** Self-reported

Obesity and the cardiovascular system

Cardiovascular system

Source: Obesity Action, NHS Digital

Obese individuals have more fatty tissue, which increases their vascular resistance and in turn increases the work the heart has to do. They are at greater risk of hypertension and heart disease.

Obesity and the digestive and skeletal systems

Digestive and skeletal systems

Source: Digestive system: Obesity Action, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Cancer Institute; Skeletal system: Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center

Obesity increases the risk of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) because fat exerts pressure on the stomach. It also increases the risk of gallstones because of increased cholesterol in bile, and of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Excessive loading of weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips, along with poor posture means that obese individuals are at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA).

Obesity and the central nervous system

Central nervous system

Source: Science Daily, Arch Gen Psychiatry 2010;67:227, Stroke 2010;41:e421

Obese people are more likely to become depressed because of poor health or being unhappy with their appearance. In addition, people who are depressed are more likely to become obese because of physiological changes in the hormone and immune systems.

Obesity and the respiratory system

Respiratory system

Source: NHS Choices, Thorax 2008;63:651

Excess body fat around the neck and stomach can lead to breathing difficulties causing sleep apnoea. It is also thought that there is a link between obesity and asthma but the mechanisms are not fully understood.

Obesity and the endocrine system

Endocrine system

Source:, NHS Digital (2017), BMC Public Health 2009;9:16

Obese people have enlarged fat cells that contain more fat. This is associated with increased inflammation and impaired metabolic function, and can lead to insulin resistance, the hallmark of type 2 diabetes.

Obesity and additional risks for women 17

Additional risks for women

Source: National Cancer Institute, NHS Choices

Being overweight increases the risk of complications for pregnant women and their babies as well as making it more difficult to conceive.

*Body mass index (BMI) is a surrogate marker of body fat which does not take account of factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, and muscle mass.

BMI: <18.5 = underweight; 18.5–24.9 = normal; 25.0–29.9 = overweight; 30.0–39.9 = obese.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203984

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

Recommended from Pharmaceutical Press

  • Zoonoses


    An accessible textbook covering zoonotic diseases, which affect humans but are contracted from animals.

    £47.00Buy now
  • Obesity Epidemic and Its Management (The)

    Obesity Epidemic and Its Management (The)

    The Obesity Epidemic and its Management explains the causes, dangers and treatments of obesity.

    £37.00Buy now
  • Disease Management

    Disease Management

    Disease Management covers the diseases commonly encountered in primary care by system, with common therapeutic issues. Includes case studies and self-assessment sections.

    £52.00Buy now
  • Minor Illness or Major Disease

    Minor Illness or Major Disease

    This established textbook helps you differentiate between minor illnesses which can be safely managed in the pharmacy, and major diseases.

    £42.00Buy now
  • Biological Therapeutics

    Biological Therapeutics

    An introduction to the treatment of disease using biological medicines derived from living plant and animal tissues.

    £32.00Buy now
  • Sampson's Textbook of Radiopharmacy

    Sampson's Textbook of Radiopharmacy

    This well-established textbook provides specialised information on the use of radiopharmaceuticals in the detection and treatment of diseases.

    £79.00Buy now

Search an extensive range of the world’s most trusted resources

Powered by MedicinesComplete
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Supplementary information

Jobs you might like

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.