The Short Term & Long-Term Effects of Obesity on Health

Many Americans struggle with excess weight. In 2004, Lester Crawford, then acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testified before Congress that two-thirds of adults in the United States were overweight and 31 percent were obese. Obesity is also on the rise among children. All those excess pounds have both short and long-term effects on people's health.

Joint Stress

Excess weight puts strain on your joints, particularly the joints of knees and hips. This pain can make it more difficult for you to move around and exercise, paradoxically making it more difficult to lose weight. If you're overweight, you also have more body fat and higher levels of substances in the blood that cause inflammation. Overweight people have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis, which causes pain and swelling in the joints.

Heart Disease

Overweight people are more likely to develop high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. One of the first-line treatments for all of these diseases is to lose weight. The Weight Control Information Network reports that losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight decreases your risk of all of these complications.


The Weight Control Information Network reports that 85 percent of people with Type II diabetes are overweight. In 2002, Type II diabetes was the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Type II diabetes increases your risk of blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke and amputation. Losing as little as 5 to 7 percent of excess body weight may be enough to prevent the onset of Type II diabetes.

Cancer Risk

If you're overweight, you increase your chances of developing breast cancer, cancer of the esophagus, colon cancer, endometrial cancer and kidney cancer. Doctors don't yet know how weight gain is linked to increased cancer risks, though the Weight Control Information Network reports some theorize that fat cells release hormones that aid the growth of cancer cells.

Other Diseases

Overweight people suffer more from gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, gastrointestinal disease and even psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. If you want to become pregnant, being overweight puts you at greater risk for pregnancy complications.


Simply being overweight can shorten your lifespan. Crawford reported that 400,000 adults die every year due to complications from obesity. The American Diabetes Association notes that when the National Cancer Institute analyzed data from studies that measured body mass index, it found that people who were classified as overweight, with a BMI of 25 to 29.9, were 13 percent more likely to die during the study period than people with lower BMI. People classified as obese, with a BMI of 30 and above, were 44 percent more likely to die during the study period.

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