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This content is taken from the University of Reading's online course, Obesity: Causes and Consequences. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds This course is based on part of the certificates in Obesity Management, a module offered by the University of Reading, which was developed with the help of academic staff, local clinicians, and national experts. The module’s been running for five years and has attracted a wide range of participants both locally, nationally, and from overseas. We hope that this shortened version will be equally attractive to you, wherever you live or whatever your interests are. You’ll be finding out that obesity is an excessive accumulation of body fat sufficient to impair health, and that it’s now seen as a chronic, life-threatening disease which is an independent risk factor or aggravating problem for at least 30 common health conditions.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds We often talk about the obesity epidemic, but recognition of the effects of being overweight is nothing new. In the fourth century BC, Hippocrates wrote, “Men of a stout disposition are more likely to die suddenly than those who are lean.” Throughout this course, we use the word obesity, which, as you’ll see later, has been defined by the World Health Organisation and is the term most often used in scientific research. But the word can be contentious and is sometimes seen as a value-laden term that says something about the person using it. Some interesting research on terminology was done in 2003.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds Obese men and women in the study rated the terms obesity and fatness as undesirable words for their doctors to use when discussing their body weight. The words obesity and fat were thought to be hurtful or offensive to individuals because of their disrespectful use in everyday life. The term weight was rated more favourably because it’s seen as non-judgmental and easily understood. BMI, or body mass index, was also seen to be a non-judgmental term, but one that was not generally well known. And if you’ve not come across it before, we’ll be discussing it later in the course. However, despite this research, we’ve decided to stick with using the term obesity, as it’s the one used most often in scientific research.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds So we hope that our use of this word does not offend. It would be interesting to know what you think about this. So do leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Introduction to obesity

What do we mean by the term ‘obesity’? Throughout the course we’ll use the World Health Organisation’s definition, which we’ll explore in more detail in this video.

Here we use the term ‘obesity’ as it is the term most used in the context of scientific research. However, we are aware that many people find the use of this word a sensitive topic.

You might want to share your views on the term ‘obesity’, and others you may use in the comments area.

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This video is from the free online course:

Obesity: Causes and Consequences

University of Reading