What is obesity and what is BMI?

Obesity is an abnormal or excess fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. It is a major risk factor for a number of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases like strokes and heart attacks, and even certain types of cancer.

Obesity is the world’s most prevalent metabolic disorder, and continues to be on a rising trend. In Singapore, the prevalence of obesity has risen from 6.9% in 2004 to 10.8% in 2010.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to measure a person’s body fat based on height and weight. It is calculated by divided one’s weight (in kilograms) over the square of one’s height (in metres). It can be inaccurate in very muscular individuals as it cannot differentiate muscle mass from fat mass well.

(please insert a BMI calculator)

The following table shows the range of BMIs and associated health risks as modified for Asian populations. (Pls reformat table)

BMI Health Risk
<18.5 Underweight; risk of nutritional deficiency
18.5-22.9 Ideal BMI; low risk
23-27.4 Moderate risk
27.5 and above High risk


Am I a candidate for obesity surgery?

Your doctor can best advise you on whether to seek surgical treatment for your condition. The presence of other obesity related diseases can also influence whether surgery is the right option for you.

General guidelines recommend surgery as a treatment option for patients with a BMI>37. However, if there is an associated obesity related disease present, surgery can be consider for patients with a BMI >32.

There is considerable flexibility in these guidelines and other factors can affect whether bariatric surgery is a good option even for patients with lower BMIs.

Consequences of obesity

Morbid obesity can result in a shorter life expectancy compared to individuals of normal weight. It also increases the risk for developing other diseases like type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

Morbid obesity also has a negative impact on one’s mental health and can be a cause for social isolation and discrimination. Daily activities can be harder as movement is more difficult and one’s stamina may be poorer. Public transport may be too small for one.