Approaches to the Pharmacological Treatment of Obesity

Victoria Salem; Stephen R Bloom


Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2010;3(1):73-88. 

In This Article

Definition & Scope of the Problem

Obesity is a rapidly increasing global health problem of critical concern. The causes of this epidemic are complex and multifactorial, but fundamentally lead to an excess calorie intake over energy expenditure. Modern lifestyles, incorporating altered eating patterns, access to cheap, highly palatable, energy-dense yet nutritionally poor foods, sedentary habits and labor-saving devices, have hugely accelerated the problem during the latter part of the 20th Century. Even small excesses in daily caloric intake very easily translate into unhealthy weight gain over a lifetime. As more of the world's population becomes urbanized and incomes rise, the problem will undoubtedly continue to grow.

Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more, calculated as an individual's weight divided by the square of their height. Overweight is defined as a BMI greater than 25 kg/m2. In 2005, the WHO estimated that 1.6 billion adults worldwide were overweight and at least 400 million obese. By 2015, this is projected to rise to 2.3 billion and over 700 million, respectively.[201] Furthermore, with the alarming rise in childhood obesity rates (an estimated 15% of juveniles are obese), the devastating chronic health consequences of obesity are likely to start occurring earlier. In 2005, Olshansky and associates predicted a reversal of 20th Century gains in life expectancy, owing to the adverse health consequences of obesity in the coming decades.[1]


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