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Health library

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Reviewed 12/1/2023

Obesity: True or false?

Obesity is about much more than just gaining extra pounds-it's a chronic condition that can affect many aspects of your overall health. Do you know the truth about obesity?

True or false: Obesity affects 40% of adults in the U.S.

True. More than 2 in 3 Americans are obese or overweight, and 2 in 5 are obese. Obesity-or having too much body fat-is different from simply weighing too much, although both obesity and overweight describe weighing more than is recommended for one's height.

True or false: Losing a lot of weight is the only way to improve your health if you're obese.

False. Shedding as little as 5% to 10% of your total body weight over a six-month period can lower your risk for heart disease and other illnesses. And getting enough exercise improves health and can lessen the damage obesity causes-even if you don't lose weight.

True or false: Obesity contributes to certain types of cancer.

True. Certain types of cancer—including breast cancer in postmenopausal women, as well as colorectal cancer—have been linked to obesity.

True or false: Sleep problems can contribute to obesity—and vice versa.

True. Sleep deprivation knocks levels of ghrelin and leptin, hormones that regulate appetite, out of balance-which could lead to overeating and weight gain. Plus, when you're tired, you may have less energy for exercise. Obesity, in turn, can contribute to problems like sleep apnea.

True or false: Obese parents always have obese children.

False. Genes-and family history-do play a role in weight, but obesity isn't necessarily a child's destiny. Good eating habits and plenty of sleep-plus at least one hour of physical activity and no more than two hours of screen time each day-can help school-aged kids reach and maintain a healthy weight.

True or false: It's normal for kids to have baby fat—they'll outgrow it.

False. Children do gain weight as they grow, but growth spurts won't compensate for a weight problem. Unless kids eat right and get plenty of exercise, they're likely to keep gaining weight. And kids who become obese are at higher risk for adult obesity.

Your body mass index, or BMI, can help determine if you are at a healthy weight. If your BMI suggest you need to shed pounds to reduce your risk for chronic illnesses, talk to a doctor.

Calculate your BMI


  • American Academy of Pediatrics. "How to Make a Family Media Use Plan."
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. "Obesity Prevention: AAP Policy Explained."
  • American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. "FAQs of Bariatric Surgery."
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Adult Obesity Facts."
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Causes of Obesity."
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How much physical activity do children need?"
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Losing Weight."
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Obesity."
  • National Cancer Institute. "Obesity and Cancer."
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults."
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Overweight and Obesity: Causes and Risk Factors."
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Overweight and Obesity: Treatment."
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "What Are Overweight and Obesity?"
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Overweight & Obesity Statistics."
  • Sleep Foundation. "Sleep and Overeating."
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