Obesity Treatment: Cost and Its Problems


Obese individuals acquire several methods to proceed toward a healthy lifestyle. These approaches include

  1. Dietary changes– in which they reduce their calorie intake and reshape their eating habits.
  2. Exercise and activityexercise increases body metabolism causing the breakdown of fat stored in the body.
  3. Counseling– this enables them not to hate their selves and be able to accept the way they are.
  4. Anti-obesity drugs– such as phentermine, naltrexone (Contrave), orlistat (Alli, Xenical), topiramate (Qsymia), bupropion, and liraglutide (Saxenda, Victoza), and lorcaserin (Belviq).
  5. Bariatric surgery– which involves reducing the size of the stomach and removing extra fat.


Obesity gives rise to most of the life-long conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and poor mental health. It also leads to complications such as stroke, peripheral limb ischemia, and heart attack. The healthcare cost of dealing with these conditions is life-long and manifold. Some cancers and osteoarthritis are also a sequel to obesity. Studies have found that middle-aged obese people have reduced life expectancy by 4-7 years. Another research has shown that 80% of people suffering from diabetes are overweight or obese.

Being obese means the person resorts to excess intake of fats that can clog the arteries, thereby, lead to hypertension and later might cause cardiovascular disease. The patient then needs to bear the cost of life-long hypertensive medications and hospital visits for appointments. If struck with cerebral hemorrhage, then along with being life-threatening, it carries the sky-high cost of hospital stays. According to recent estimates in the U.S, it was found that obese men incurred a cost of US$1,152 per year for such hospital stays and prescriptions, which was twice for women.

To cut down fat and return to a healthy lifestyle, obese people also opt for bariatric surgery. This surgery is widely practiced across the world. Surveys show that an obese person spends up to $5000 on healthcare as compared to others. Bariatric surgery costs $15000 to $25000, which is cost-effective and helps them cut down not only fat but also the amount of money spent on handling other associated complications.


Bariatric surgery | Source: Freepik.com

A cohort study was conducted by Rush University Medical center, which included 210 obese participants with diabetes, hypertension, or both. The subjects underwent gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy from January 2015 to July 2018. Follow-up records were taken for six months on an online database, which showed the cost-effectiveness of their surgery.

The expenditure of obese diabetic patients dropped from $224.60 to $70.25. The expenditure of obese hypertensive patients dropped from $71.02 to $47.07. This concludes the cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgery and exhibits the potential of its efficacy towards both financial and personal concerns.

However, most of the patients are not aware of the side effects and risks of Bariatric surgery. There is a long list of problems that are associated with the surgery. Some of them are short-term and can be avoided by undertaking adequate measures, whereas those who are long-term can be miserable. It should be noted that although bariatric surgery is a useful tool to lose a lot of weight, yet there are physiological and psychological drawbacks it imposes.


Historical and Social Aspects of Obesity

Having a look at the historical ideology proves global acceptance and appreciation towards obesity. Unlike the current times, obesity symbolized the prosperity and well-being of an individual. History has witnessed several famines, most of which were brutally fatal. In those adverse times, poor people couldn’t meet their needs.

On the contrary, the elite and privileged had enough resources to consume ample food and never sleep hungry. These people were mostly the rulers and the fortunate class who ate food in excess and withstood the famine with better health. Since their health didn’t deteriorate and they ate without any limits, they would become obese. Obesity thus became a tool to flaunt their wealth and power.

Obesity was not only a symbol of prosperity only but also of the perfect feminine body. Girls who were lean and thin at the time of puberty were rejected for marriages. They were admitted into a hut where they were groomed to become admirable as a ticket for marriage. They were made beautiful by piercing their body parts, and most importantly, they were fed to make them plump. They were only allowed to leave the huts after becoming fat. Their fatness was judged by the elders.

This trend was followed particularly in Africa, and on the same continent, men were also judged by their stature. The power and authority of a man were categorized according to his size. The larger the size, the more dignity and more authority was believed. People would elect their leaders based on obesity, and individuals who are more obese were favored compared to other candidates.

In the 20th century, female sex symbols were also chosen and idealized based on the fat they carried. Illiac Russell, the famous sex symbol, weighed 200 pounds and was a temptation for all the men worldwide. Her photos were painted and published in newspapers. Not only Africa but Europe and the USA as well were following the same trend of finding fat and obesity synonymous with beauty and power. Their literature reflected how women were objectified, and it was discussed that men seem to be more eager to interact with obese women than lean and thin.

The famous literature piece Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, states that Margaret, the eldest one, was beautiful, plump, and fair. It also describes how satisfied Margaret’s suitor was and smiled to himself while pressing her chubby hands. The idea of obese people being more attractive and appreciable was reflected not only in literature but also in paintings. The Bather is a unique painting that is considered to be a masterpiece of art produced by Renoir in 1887. In this painting, the ideal body was exemplified.

Today, obesity is not normalized like it was several hundred years ago. In this era, obesity means precisely the opposite of what it was before. It has now become a sign of ugliness. Obese men and women are not counted among the beautiful or attractive ones. The standard of beauty revolves around tall, slim, and smart individuals who carry themselves elegantly in a sophisticated manner. Excessive fat and extra weight not only repel people but also makes others feel pity for them.

Obesity in the present day and age is a sign of an unhealthy and unstable life. Obese people are considered lazy. They are often left behind for good job opportunities because they are thought not to match the right personality criteria. Such people become a reflection of an unhealthy routine and fatty diet, which shows their carelessness for a healthy life.

Bonus video: The Obesity Epidemic



How does obesity impact the total health care costs?

By 2006, obesity was responsible for closer to 10 percent of medical costs—nearly $86 billion a year. Spending on obesity-related conditions accounted for an estimated 8.5 percent of Medicare spending, 11.8 percent of Medicaid spending, and 12.9 percent in private-payer expenditures.

What are the long term costs of obesity?

Obesity-related medical care costs in the United States, in 2008 dollars, were an estimated $147 billion. Annual nationwide productivity costs of obesity-related absenteeism range between $3.38 billion ($79 per obese individual) and $6.38 billion ($132 per individual with obesity).

What treatments are associated with obesity?

Treatment for Overweight & Obesity
  • Healthy eating plan and regular physical activity.
  • Changing your habits.
  • Weight-management programs.
  • Weight-loss medicines.
  • Weight-loss devices.
  • Bariatric surgery.
  • Special diets.

What are the problems with obesity?

In adults, overweight and obesity are linked to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar), high blood pressure, certain cancers, and other chronic conditions. Research has shown that obese children are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

How does obesity affect the community?

Direct medical costs. One of the most cited economic impacts of the obesity epidemic is direct medical spending. Obesity is linked with a higher risk for several severe health conditions, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, asthma, and arthritis.

How do we prevent obesity?

The bottom line is that eating a healthy diet and getting more physical activity can help prevent obesity.
  1. Consume less “bad” fat and more “good” fat.
  2. Consume less processed and sugary foods.
  3. Eat more servings of vegetables and fruits.
  4. Eat plenty of dietary fiber.
  5. Focus on eating low–glycemic index foods.

Is obesity a disease?

Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It is a medical problem that increases your risk of other diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers.

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