What is Morbid Obesity?

Medical professionals often use the term “morbid obesity” when discussing a patient’s eligibility for weight loss surgery. Morbid obesity is generally defined as:

  • A body weight 100 pounds or more than what is medically recommended
  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 40

Morbid obesity affects many people. An estimated five to 11 million Americans are morbidly obese – about one in 20 people.

Extreme overweight can jeopardize health and lead to early death. In fact, morbid obesity is gaining on smoking as the second leading cause of preventable death, responsible for 400,000 deaths annually – up 30 percent since 1990.

How Is Body Mass Index (BMI) Used to Categorize Weight?

BMI is a mathematical formula (a person’s weight in kilograms divided by his or her height in meters squared) that healthcare professionals use to assess whether or not a person is overweight – and, if so, to what degree. BMI is also a gauge of total body fat.

BMI categories include:

  • Normal BMI 19 to 24
  • Overweight BMI 25 to 29
  • Obese BMI 30 to 39
  • Extreme (Morbid) Obesity BMI 40 to 49
  • Super Morbidly Obese BMI 50+

Changes in BMI – and body weight alone – are used to determine the effectiveness of weight loss programs and therapies.

Next: What are the causes of obesity? »