Problems Caused By
Being Overweight

Problems Caused By Being Overweight: Overview

There are various reasons why people are overweight.  These include genetics (suggested by studies of twins), overeating, stopping smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, a change in life-style, more energy intake than energy expenditure (taking into account resting metabolic expenditure), environmental factors, salt/potassium retention, hidden food allergies, major depression/anxiety/other psychological, medical illness, medications, during and after pregnancy, cultural (perceptions on obesity), and socioeconomic factors. Obesity, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, is "an important chronic degenerative disease that debilitates individuals and kills prematurely." It continues to contribute to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S.  every year.

Causes and Development

Set Point Theory. Obesity is not strictly the product of sloth and gluttony.  Everybody has a weight that their body can defend and most people know what that weight is.  You lose a little weight, but tend to bounce back to your original weight again and again.  That weight is called the "set point".  Although weight is influenced by what and how much one eats, and by such things as exercise, ordinarily it will revert to its most comfortable level.

One thing that is not well-recognized is the fact that weight loss itself is not a particularly difficult problem.  If a human being is put on an 800 or 1000 calorie diet, they lose weight.  There do not appear to be a large number of people who have undesirable responses to a 1000 calorie diet that prevents them from losing weight: the few claims that have been investigated have not held up to scrutiny.  In other words, there are no people who are totally resistant to weight loss.  However, the vast majority of humans are very resistant to the maintenance of a body weight below whatever their set point is.

A person's set point is the approximate weight and fat percentage that their body settles into during adulthood.  Body fat is actually regulated by the brain's weight regulating mechanism in the hypothalamus.  This mechanism chooses the amount of body fat it considers ideal for the body's needs and then works tirelessly to maintain that level.

The regulating mechanism controls body weight in two critically important ways.  First, it has a profound effect of the amount of food you eat.  It is responsible for dramatically increasing or decreasing appetite to maintain the set point weight.  As you lose weight, it signals hunger; as you gain weight, it reduces appetite.  Second, the regulating mechanism can trigger the body's systems to waste excess energy if you overeat or conserve energy if you don't eat enough.  Energy conservation may lead to muscle loss and a slow down of the endocrine system due to the body's attempts to protect its fat stores for use in the future.  In addition, less muscle mass means the body requires still fewer calories.

An individual's set point is genetically determined.  There are those who are able to eat anything and everything they desire and still maintain a low body fat percentage, but others who continually struggle with their genetic set point and constantly diet and exercise to lose weight.  Often this weight loss is a loss of both muscle and fat tissue.  Once they stop dieting, those who have battled fat loss incorrectly or are simply unable to maintain the proper lifestyle will inevitably return to their original body composition or gain additional body fat.  The subsequent weight gain consists primarily of fat tissue.

If you go to a doctor and say that you need to lose weight, the doctor is not likely to tell you that are at your set point, so there is not need to treat you.  That thought usually has nothing to do with how people are treated.  The diet industry also is not based primarily on medical complications, but cosmetics and profit.

Leptin
Molecular biologists first identified leptin in 1994.  Since then, the fat hormone has been the subject of intense speculation among scientists.  Leptin has prompted research into eating disorders, obesity and diabetes.  The obesity hormone leptin appears to reduce cravings for sweet foods by targeting taste receptors on the tongue.  Therefore, it is possible that a lack of leptin, or the body's failure to respond to the hormone due to defects in leptin receptors (leptin resistance), may contribute to the so-called sweet tooth that affects so many.

Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, is involved in weight regulation.  It is thought that the hormone signals the brain when fat cells are full, but exactly how the hormone controls weight is not entirely clear.  Animals and humans without leptin, or with defective leptin receptors, become obese.  As one becomes fatter, the body makes more leptin and the likelihood of leptin resistance increases [NEJM, February 1, 1996;334: pp.292-5].  Men whose bodies produce more insulin also tend to have increased leptin levels.

Exercise decreases the amount of leptin in the blood of both overweight and normal weight individuals.  Recent research shows that only 3 hours of exercise per week lowers leptin levels by about 10%.  Exercise can lower the levels of leptin no matter how fat a person is.  Lowering leptin levels reduces the risk of leptin resistance seen in obesity; raising leptin levels does not appear to be an effective weight loss mechanism in humans.  However, trials have shown that large supplemental doses of leptin can result in some weight loss in obese individuals.

In short, leptin levels should be kept within the normal range: low levels can result in food cravings and higher levels tend to suppress appetite but are also associated with tissues becoming less sensitive to the hormone and contributing to craving and more weight gain.  Exercise can lower leptin levels, but caution must be taken in some individuals that levels do not go too low.  Researchers have long been busy searching for the key to safely control a person's weight.  It remains to be seen if they will ever be successful.

Signs and Symptoms

Fatigue (especially after exertion), shortness of breath, decreased energy, palpitations, irregular heart beat, edema (especially swelling of the feet and legs), sleep apnea (Pickwickian syndrome) and respiratory obstruction (for obesity to cause sleep apnea and respiratory obstruction it must be severe).

Physical signs and risks of being overweight
Hypertension, coronary heart disease, predisposition to diabetes, hyperlipidemia (increased cholesterol level), metabolic abnormalities, increased risk for gallbladder disease, gout, some types of cancer, and development of osteoarthritis of the weight-bearing joints.

Treatment and Prevention

One way to rationalize the treatment of obesity is to treat only individuals who have medical causes and complications.  Treat the individual who has hypothyroidism, hyperlipidemia, gall bladder disease, or type II diabetes, to the point where the cause and risks are reduced.  Don't treat the obesity itself – treat the cause or the body fat content until you relieve the metabolic consequences.  It turns out that just a 10% body fat reduction can produce increases in insulin sensitivity and blood pressure reduction.

Complications

The relationship of weight to blood pressure. Being overweight is a significant risk factor for the development of hypertension.  The prevalence of hypertension in the U.S.  is greatly increased by the fact that one quarter to one half of all adults (results differ by study) are overweight.  Although the association between higher body fat and blood pressure has been recognized for years, recent studies have discovered a 50-300% higher incidence of hypertension among adults who consider themselves overweight compared to those classified as normal weight.  Similar findings are revealed from studies involving children and young adults, in which the connection between weight and blood pressure has been observed to be very strong.

Two proposed mechanisms underlying this correlation are the stimulation of sodium retention and increased catecholamine release, which are results of increased sodium sensitivity and hyperinsulinemia.  Age, gender, and race are also part of the equation and so should be considered when studying preventive interventions.  Hypertension and obesity treatment are necessary to avoid potential morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease or stroke.

References and Further Information

[Institute of Medicine, Weighing the Options.  National Academy Press, 1995]
[American Heart Journal 147 (2004): p.841]
[New England Journal of MedicineVolume 338 (1998): p.1]
[Annals of Internal Medicine 138 (2003): p.24]
[Journal of the American Medical Association 289 (2003): p.187]

A Weight Problem

Information On This Page

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Problems Caused By Being Overweight:

Symptoms - Abdomen

Constant significant bloating may be a sign or symptom of Problems Caused By Being OverweightConstant slight/constant significant bloating
The classic 'beer belly' is usually caused by high levels of visceral fat.  This is not the same as subcutaneous fat, which lies immediately under the skin.  Visceral fat or "gut fat" surrounds the internal organs and causes central obesity.

Symptoms - Metabolic

Symptoms - Muscular

Counter-indicators:

Conditions that suggest Problems Caused By Being Overweight:

Circulation

Digestion

Hormones

Low Sex Hormone Binding Globulin often suggests Problems Caused By Being OverweightLow Sex Hormone Binding Globulin
Obesity tends to increase the levels of sex hormone (estrogen, testosterone) activity, and decrease levels of sex hormone binding globulin.

Lab Values

Mental

Depression may suggest Problems Caused By Being OverweightDepression
Obese and underweight persons are more often depressive than people in the normal body weight range.

Metabolic

Syndrome X / Metabolic Syndrome often suggests Problems Caused By Being OverweightSyndrome X / Metabolic Syndrome
The International Diabetes Federation consensus worldwide definition of Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X) is as follows:

Central obesity (or a BMI index of over 30) AND any two of the following:
  • Raised triglycerides: > 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L), or specific treatment for this lipid abnormality.
  • Reduced HDL cholesterol: < 40 mg/dL (1.03 mmol/L) in males, < 50 mg/dL (1.29 mmol/L) in females, or specific treatment for this lipid abnormality
  • Raised blood pressure: systolic BP > 130 or diastolic BP > 85, or treatment of previously diagnosed hypertension
  • Raised Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG): previously diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes, or FPG > 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L).  If FPG is above this value, an OGTT Glucose tolerance test is strongly recommended but is not necessary to define presence of the syndrome.

Musculo-Skeletal

Gout / Hyperuricemia may suggest Problems Caused By Being OverweightGout / Hyperuricemia
Gout is strongly associated with obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes.
Osteoarthritis may suggest Problems Caused By Being OverweightOsteoarthritis
Forcing joints to carry more weight than they were designed for often results in premature failure.

Organ Health

Diabetes Type II may suggest Problems Caused By Being OverweightDiabetes Type II
Scientists have discovered a hormone that may explain the link between diabetes and obesity – a tantalizing finding that could someday lead to new treatments for the disease.  The hormone, dubbed resistin, is produced by fat cells and prompts tissues to resist insulin, the substance the body needs to process blood sugar, researchers reported in the scientific journal NatureDiabetics produce too little insulin or cannot use it efficiently.  This will probably result in new drug treatments, but emphasizes the need for weight reduction.
Gallbladder Disease may suggest Problems Caused By Being OverweightGallbladder Disease
Obesity in both men and women increases the risk for gallstones.  This may be a result of lower levels of bile salts relative to cholesterol in the bile causing a higher risk for cholesterol supersaturation and the formation of stones.

Reproductive

Menorrhagia (Heavy Periods) may suggest Problems Caused By Being OverweightMenorrhagia (Heavy Periods)
Chronic menorrhagia and PMS is usually the result of deficient progesterone secretion or constant adipose-released estradiol from obesity or recent substantial weight loss.

Respiratory

Asthma may suggest Problems Caused By Being OverweightAsthma
Being overweight increases the risk of asthma.  [Arch Intern Med 1999;159: pp.2582-8] Obese people with asthma may improve their lung-function symptoms and overall health status by engaging in a weight-loss program.  A controlled study found that weight loss resulted in significant decreases in episodes of shortness of breath, increases in overall breathing capacity, and decreases in the need for medication to control symptoms.  [BMJ 2000;320: pp.827-32]

Risk factors for Problems Caused By Being Overweight:

Diet

Habits

Hormones

Lab Values - Chemistries

Counter-indicators:

Lifestyle

Counter-indicators:
(Very) good anaerobic exercise level may decrease risk of Problems Caused By Being Overweight(Very) good anaerobic exercise level
Our indication of whether a person is overweight is based on the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculation.  If you perform a lot of non-aerobic exercise then much of your 'excess' weight is likely to be muscle mass rather than fat.  In this case, a BMI-based assertion that you are overweight may be untrue.

Mental

Stress may increase risk of Problems Caused By Being OverweightStress
Some people respond to stress by eating.  "Stress Eaters" use food as a drug to deal with external stressors such as work, deadlines or finances.  Carbohydrates are often the craved foods because they increase levels of serotonin in the brain, which has a calming effect and helps induce sleep.  Stress Eaters often use candy, cookies, pretzels, etc.  on the job to relieve stress and are unaware of the reason behind it.  A habit of eating in response to stress may lead to obesity.

Reproductive

Symptoms - Metabolic

Counter-indicators:

Symptoms - Reproductive - General

Counter-indicators:
Being in late pregnancy often decreases risk of Problems Caused By Being OverweightBeing in early/being in mid-/being in late pregnancy
Women generally gain 15-40 pounds (7-18kg) during pregnancy, depending on their weight before pregnancy and how many babies they are carrying.  Obviously this needs to be taken into account when deciding if weight is a problem for you.

Problems Caused By Being Overweight suggests the following may be present:

Diet

Hormones

Problems Caused By Being Overweight suggests Low HGH (Human Growth Hormone)Low HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
Dr. Brett Jancques, ND reports that all of the obese individuals tested thus far by AAL Reference Laboratories were found to have low growth hormone levels.  Testing was accomplished through 24-hour urinary growth hormone measurements.  [Townsend Letter, Feb/March 2002, Vol 223/224; pp.74-78]
Counter-indicators:

Mental

Problems Caused By Being Overweight often suggests StressStress
Some people respond to stress by eating.  "Stress Eaters" use food as a drug to deal with external stressors such as work, deadlines or finances.  Carbohydrates are often the craved foods because they increase levels of serotonin in the brain, which has a calming effect and helps induce sleep.  Stress Eaters often use candy, cookies, pretzels, etc.  on the job to relieve stress and are unaware of the reason behind it.  A habit of eating in response to stress may lead to obesity.

Reproductive

Problems Caused By Being Overweight can lead to:

Circulation

Problems Caused By Being Overweight often leads to Coronary Disease / Heart AttackCoronary Disease / Heart Attack
Even if you never become diabetic, high levels of insulin contribute to cardiovascular risk by increasing the process of atherosclerosis.  Insulin increases the rate at which cholesterol-laden plaque builds up on arterial walls.  The abnormally high levels of insulin produced by all overweight individuals, diabetic or not, is an independent risk factor for early cardiac death.

Digestion

Lab Values

Musculo-Skeletal

Problems Caused By Being Overweight often leads to OsteoarthritisOsteoarthritis
Forcing joints to carry more weight than they were designed for often results in premature failure.

Organ Health

Problems Caused By Being Overweight often leads to Diabetes Type IIDiabetes Type II
Scientists have discovered a hormone that may explain the link between diabetes and obesity – a tantalizing finding that could someday lead to new treatments for the disease.  The hormone, dubbed resistin, is produced by fat cells and prompts tissues to resist insulin, the substance the body needs to process blood sugar, researchers reported in the scientific journal NatureDiabetics produce too little insulin or cannot use it efficiently.  This will probably result in new drug treatments, but emphasizes the need for weight reduction.
Problems Caused By Being Overweight often leads to Gallbladder DiseaseGallbladder Disease
Obesity in both men and women increases the risk for gallstones.  This may be a result of lower levels of bile salts relative to cholesterol in the bile causing a higher risk for cholesterol supersaturation and the formation of stones.

Reproductive

Problems Caused By Being Overweight often leads to AmenorrheaAmenorrhea
Women who are obese often experience amenorrhea as a result of excess fat cells interfering with the process of ovulation.
Problems Caused By Being Overweight often leads to Menorrhagia (Heavy Periods)Menorrhagia (Heavy Periods)
Chronic menorrhagia and PMS is usually the result of deficient progesterone secretion or constant adipose-released estradiol from obesity or recent substantial weight loss.

Respiratory

Tumors, Malignant

Problems Caused By Being Overweight sometimes leads to Breast CancerBreast Cancer
Women with 'apple-shaped' bodies may be more likely to develop breast cancer than their 'pear-shaped' counterparts.  Harvard researchers studied breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women who had never used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and found even greater risks, with larger-waisted women appearing to be 88% more likely to develop breast cancer than smaller-waisted women.  HRT use can increase the risk of breast cancer, regardless of waist size.  Exactly why fat distribution affects breast cancer risk is not fully understood but perhaps, the researchers speculate, upper or central body fat is deeper and may be closer to the important organs and glands that regulate hormone balance than fat in the other areas of the body.  These hormonal changes may be responsible for the increased risk of the cancer. 
[American Journal of Epidemiology December 1999;150: pp.1316-1324]
Problems Caused By Being Overweight sometimes leads to Cancer, GeneralCancer, General
Apart from excess stimulation by estrogen in breast and ovarian cancer, obese people are more prone to cancer, although it is still uncertain why.
Problems Caused By Being Overweight sometimes leads to Pancreatic CancerPancreatic Cancer
At least two studies have found that obesity significantly increases one's risk of developing pancreatic cancer.  [JAMA.  2001;286: pp.921-929]
Problems Caused By Being Overweight sometimes leads to Lung CancerLung Cancer
Researchers used data from a study of lung cancer patients in New York from 1982 to 1985.  They focused on patients who had never smoked, or those who hadn't smoked in the last 10 years, then took into account physical data on patients' heights and weight.  Researchers found that study subjects who were at the most extreme levels of obesity had the highest risk of lung cancer.  The study is a first for linking being overweight to lung cancer; it has previously been shown to play a role in breast, uterine, and colon cancer.

Researchers are unsure why being obese plays a role in lung cancer; some researchers suggest it's related to hormones such as higher levels of estrogen and insulin.  In addition, being overweight puts an added strain on the lungs, reduces lung capacity, and increases asthma risk.  [American Journal of Epidemiology Sept.  2000]

Recommendations for Problems Caused By Being Overweight:

Amino Acid / Protein

Tryptophan / 5HTP may help with Problems Caused By Being OverweightTryptophan / 5HTP
Although used chiefly as an antidepressant, preliminary evidence from three small double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials suggests that 5-HTP may also help people lose weight.  It is thought to work by raising levels of serotonin, which in turn may influence eating behavior.  A typical therapeutic dosage of 5-HTP is 100 to 300mg 3 times daily.

Animal-based

CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) often helps with Problems Caused By Being OverweightCLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)
In animals, CLA helped repartition their body weight, decreasing fat and increasing lean body mass.  One human study confirms this.

Botanical

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is highly recommended for Problems Caused By Being OverweightEphedra (Ma Huang)
Contrary to commonly reported stories, 3 months of intermittent or continuous treatment with an ephedra-containing weight-loss product containing ephedra (but not caffeine) had no ill effect on heart rate or blood pressure and there were no cases of serious adverse effects reported in a well-controlled study of 279 healthy, overweight people.  33% of patients on intermittent treatment and 48% on continuous treatment experienced adverse effects deemed non-serious such as dry mouth, headache, insomnia, nervousness, agitation, constipation and/or diarrhea.  [Experimental Biology 2002, April 20-24, 2002, New Orleans, LA, USA.  Abstract]

Diet

Weight Loss is highly recommended for Problems Caused By Being OverweightWeight Loss
The sad thing, according to the director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is that "people keep believing that the magic bullet is just around the corner... if they only eliminate food 'X' or combine foods 'A' and 'B', or twirl around three times before each meal." The reality is that most ordinary people lose weight without the gimmicks Americans spend $30 billion a year on.  [Annals of Internal Medicine 119 (1993): p.661]

In the largest survey ever undertaken on the long-term maintenance of weight loss, Consumer Reports found that the vast majority of the most successful dieters said they lost weight entirely on their own, without enrolling in some expensive program, or buying special foods or supplements or following the regimen of some diet guru [Consumers Union news release, 6 May 2002].  The most popular fad diet right now may be Atkins, but it's not the most popular diet, and not the one that seems to work the best.
Increased Fruit/Vegetable Consumption is highly recommended for Problems Caused By Being OverweightIncreased Fruit/Vegetable Consumption
To lose weight, you can either cut down on calorie intake by restricting the amount of food you eat, or you can transition away from eating junk food (foodstuffs long on calories but short on nutrition) toward eating food that is nutrient-dense, but relatively calorie-dilute: foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Juicing is highly recommended for Problems Caused By Being OverweightJuicing
Vegetable juicing increases not only the quantity of vegetables that you will eat, but also the absorption of their nutrients.  Nutrient deficiency, a common problem with dieting, is thereby overcome.  Fresh vegetable juice also helps lower calorie consumption because it reduces or replaces other foods that you might have eaten instead.  Juicing helps normalize weight, sometimes without a forced reduction in calorie consumption.  Juicing also promotes a feeling of being energized.  It is as though energy would rather be burned than converted to fat.
Spicy Foods is highly recommended for Problems Caused By Being OverweightSpicy Foods
You can increase your metabolism significantly by using hot and spicy foods such as hot peppers (of all varieties) and mustards.  Research shows that these foods increase your metabolism.  Try substituting mustard for mayonnaise and add hot peppers to your food for greater flavor and increased metabolism.  Cayenne may promote weight loss in those with a low basal temperature.
Plant-Based Nutrition is highly recommended for Problems Caused By Being OverweightPlant-Based Nutrition
Permanent weight control is difficult to achieve.  Between 95% and 98% of repeat dieters fail, regaining the weight that they initially lose.  What about the other 2-5%? In her book "Eating Thin for Life," award winning journalist and dietician Anne Fletcher delved into the habits of a few hundred people who had not only lost an average of 64 pounds but also maintained that loss for an average of 11 years.  What did she find? "Basically, they're eating the opposite of a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet," Fletcher reported.  When she asked them to describe their eating habits, the top response was "low-fat" followed by "eating less meat." These dieters with long-term success also told her they ate "more fruits and vegetables."

Recent research supports this notion.  One research study showed that significant weight loss can be triggered by just feeding people extra fruit – 3 added apples or pears a day [Nutrition 19 (2003): p.253].  Harvard studied 75,000 women for a decade and the results suggest that the more fruits and vegetables women eat the less likely they will become obese [American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70 (1999): p.412].  A 2004 review of the available research suggests that in general "increasing fruit and vegetable intake may be an important strategy for weight loss." [Nutrition Reviews 62 (2004): p.1]

The results of the biggest study on diet and obesity to date was released in 2003, comparing over a thousand vegans to tens of thousands of meat-eaters, and lacto-ovo vegetarians [International Journal of Obesity 27 (2003): p.728].  The meat-eaters were on average significantly heavier than the vegetarians, who were significantly heavier than the vegans.  Even after controlling for exercise and smoking and other nondietary factors, vegans came out slimmest in every age group: fewer than 2% of vegans were obese.  In a snapshot of the diets of 10,000 Americans, those eating vegetarian were slimmest whereas those eating the fewest carbs in the sample weighed the most.  [Journal of the American Dietetics Association 1010 (2001): p.411]

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute followed over 75,000 people for ten years to find out which behaviors were associated with weight loss and weight gain.  The one dietary behavior most associated with an expanding waistline was high meat consumption and the dietary behavior most strongly associated with a loss of abdominal fat was high vegetable consumption.  Even after controlling for other factors, men and women who ate more than a serving of meat per day seemed to be 50% more likely to suffer an increase in abdominal obesity than those who ate meat just a few times a week.  The researchers conclude: "Our analysis has identified several easily described behaviors [such as reducing meat intake to less than three servings per week and jogging a few hours every week] that, if widely adopted, might help reverse recent increases in adult overweight... Increases in vegetable consumption might reduce abdominal obesity even further." [American Journal of Public Health 87 (1997): p.747]

Obesity is a major contributor to many serious illnesses, and is much less common among vegetarians, compared to the general population.  Vegetarians are, on average, about 10% leaner than omnivores.
  1. Pixley F, Wilson D, McPherson K, Mann J.  Effect of vegetarianism on development of gallstones in women.  Br Med J 1985;291: pp.11-2
  2. Frentzel-Beyme R, Claude J, Eilber U.  Mortality among German vegetarians: first results after five years of follow-up.  Nutr Cancer 1988;11: pp.117-26
  3. Melby CL, Hyner GC, Zoog B.  blood pressure in vegetarians and non-vegetarians: a cross-sectional analysis.  Nutr Res 1985;5: pp.1077-82
  4. Melby CL, Goldflies DG, Hyner GC, Lyle RM.  Relation between vegetarian/nonvegetarian diets and blood pressure in black and white adults.  Am J Publ Health 1989;79: pp.1283-8
  5. Sacks FM, Ornish D, Rosner B, McLanahan S, Castelli WP, Kass EH.  Plasma lipoprotein levels in vegetarians: the effect of ingestion of fats from dairy products.  JAMA 1985;254: pp.1337-41
  6. Frentzel-Beyme R, Claude J, Eilber U.  Mortality among German vegetarians: first results after five years of follow-up.  Nutr Cancer 1988;11: pp.117-26
  7. Burr ML, Batese J, Fehily AM, Leger AS.  Plasma cholesterol and blood pressure in vegetarians.  J Human Nutr 1981;35: pp.437-41
  8. Rouse IL, Armstrong BK, Beilin LJ, Vandongen R.  Vegetarian diet, blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.  Aust NZ J Med 1984;14: pp.439-43
Low/Decreased Fat Diet often helps with Problems Caused By Being OverweightLow/Decreased Fat Diet
Reducing fat in the diet may reduce cancer risk and, in helping weight control, may reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  [The National Cancer Institute booklet, "Diet, Nutrition, & Cancer Prevention: A Guide to Food Choices"]
High/Increased Fiber Diet often helps with Problems Caused By Being OverweightHigh/Increased Fiber Diet
An increasing number of studies suggest that any water-soluble fiber may help people lose weight.  High fiber foods are bulky, low in calories, and take longer to chew contributing to weight loss and maintenance.  Both types of fiber also help to create a feeling of fullness from meals (resulting in fewer calories being consumed from calorie-dense fats and sweets), stabilize blood sugar and maintain energy levels.

Good results in weight loss studies have been achieved with guar gum, a water-soluble fiber obtained from the Indian cluster bean (cyamopsis tetragonoloba).  In one study, nine women weighing between 160 and 242 pounds (73 to 110kg) were given 10gm of guar gum immediately before lunch and dinner.  They were told not to consciously alter their eating habits.  After two months, the women reported an average weight loss of 9.4 pounds (4.3kg) – over 1 pound per week.
High/Increased Protein Diet often helps with Problems Caused By Being OverweightHigh/Increased Protein Diet
An excellent book to read on the benefits gained from an adequate (not high) protein diet is "Protein Power: The High-Protein/Low Carbohydrate Way to Lose Weight, Feel Fit, and Boost Your Health-in Just Weeks!" by Michael and Mary Eades.
Low/Decreased Carbohydrate Diet often helps with Problems Caused By Being OverweightLow/Decreased Carbohydrate Diet
More and more researchers are citing insulin as the main culprit in weight gain and expound the benefits of a diet low in carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates – in particular rapidly-absorbed simple carbohydrates (sugars) – stimulate the body to store fat, thus making weight loss difficult.  Researchers have found that eating larger portions of protein in conjunction with severely reduced portions of carbohydrates causes people to burn the excess fat stored in their bodies.
Nut and Seed Consumption often helps with Problems Caused By Being OverweightNut and Seed Consumption
Despite their caloric density, a 2003 review of all the research on the matter concluded eating nuts every day might actually help one maintain or even lose weight.  [American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78 (2003): p.647s]

Habits

Aerobic Exercise is highly recommended for Problems Caused By Being OverweightAerobic Exercise
Increased physical activity lowers the risk of obesity, favorably influences the distribution of body weight and has a variety of health-related benefits, even in the absence of weight loss.  Exercise is the natural partner to weight loss.  You will discover improvement in balance, energy level, immune function, muscular strength, reflexes, and self-esteem.

Hormone

DHEA may help with Problems Caused By Being OverweightDHEA
7-Keto DHEA supplements, at a dose of 200mg per day in adults 25 to 55 years of age has been shown in a double-blind trial to enhance weight loss, aid in the reduction of body fat and effect thyroid hormone levels.  This two-month study also demonstrated that 7-Keto does not significantly affect blood sugar, testosterone, estradiol, liver or kidney function.

How much DHEA we maintain may be involved in determining how fat is actually stored in the body.  In another study, DHEA was given to five male, normal weight subjects at a dose of 1600mg per day, divided into 4 doses.  After 28 days, with diet and physical activity remaining normal, 4 of the 5 exhibited a mean body fat decrease of 31% with no overall weight change.  This meant that their fat loss was balanced by a gain in muscle mass characteristic of youth.  At the same time, their LDL levels fell by 7.5% to confer protection against cardiovascular disease. 

7-Keto DHEA does not become converted to sex hormones as does DHEA.  The choice of whether to use DHEA or 7-Keto DHEA will be influenced by your sex and adrenal hormone status.  Laboratory testing is required to determine this.

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

Test for Food Allergies often helps with Problems Caused By Being OverweightTest for Food Allergies
Masked food allergy can be a factor in the development and persistence of obesity.  [Abstract.  J Lab Clin Med 32: p.1547, 1947]

Mineral

Chromium often helps with Problems Caused By Being OverweightChromium
A 3-month double-blind study of 122 moderately overweight people found that 400mcg of chromium daily resulted in an average loss of 6.2 pounds (2.8kg) of body fat, as opposed to 3.4 pounds (1.5kg) in the placebo group.  There was no loss of lean body mass.  These results suggest that chromium can help you lose fat without losing muscle.

However, six smaller double-blind placebo-controlled studies found chromium picolinate supplements produced no weight loss or change in lean body mass.  These conflicting results may be due to differences in study size, the dosage of chromium, and the individuals enrolled.  Overall, chromium does appear to be promising.

KEY

Weak or unproven link: may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of; sometimes leads to
Weak or unproven link:
may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of; sometimes leads to
Strong or generally accepted link: often suggests; often increases risk of; often leads to
Strong or generally accepted link:
often suggests; often increases risk of; often leads to
Definite or direct link: is a sign or symptom of; increases risk of; suggests
Definite or direct link:
is a sign or symptom of; increases risk of; suggests
Weakly counter-indicative: may decrease risk of
Weakly counter-indicative:
may decrease risk of
Strong counter-indication: often decreases risk of; often reduces the likelihood of
Strong counter-indication:
often decreases risk of; often reduces the likelihood of
Definitely or absolutely counter-indicates: strongly contraindicates; decreases risk of
Definitely or absolutely counter-indicates:
strongly contraindicates; decreases risk of
May be useful: may help with
May be useful:
may help with
Moderately useful: often helps with
Moderately useful:
often helps with
Very useful: is highly recommended for
Very useful:
is highly recommended for