4 unexpected side effects of weight gain

We all know carrying a few extra kilos is not ideal, but experts explain four surprising knock-on effects that can result from being overweight.

An expanded waistline and heavier body mass are a couple of expected side effects as a result of being overweight.

But a study into obesity and brain dysfunction raises the often overlooked idea that weight gain also impacts on more than just the body’s physical size.

“There are myriad other health issues related to being overweight, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, and fertility complications,” says Dr Cris Beer, of The Medical Sanctuary.

There are also more unexpected ways that the body can be affected by carrying excess weight.

1. Brain functionality

A recent study found blood flow to the brain was decreased in overweight individuals.

“According to the research, this blood flow reduction in turn led to a reduced ability to concentrate,” explains Dr Beer.

“It also suggested an increased risk of depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, suicide and even Alzheimer’s Disease.”

But Dr Emily Amos notes there are some limitations to these findings.

“This study simply looked at participants brains via MRI scanning and divided the results up by their BMIs,” Dr Amos says.

“More research needs to be done to ascertain if there is a causal relationship rather than just a correlation.”

2. Joint problems

Our joint system comes under immense strain when we carry excess weight.

“If we are over our healthy weight range, then we are placing added stressors onto our bones and joints,” explains Dr Amos.

Over time, this wear and tear can potentially lead to the onset of premature osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, if this occurs, it creates a cycle that’s difficult to break.

“Osteoarthritis causes pain with movement,” says Dr Beer.

“This restricts a person’s ability to move and exercise, which ultimately makes it harder for them to lose that excess weight.”

3. Interrupted sleep

Correct air passage function – particularly at night time – can also can be impacted by weight gain.

“If we are carrying excess weight around the neck and chest area, this can physically affect our ability to breathe comfortably when we lie down,” says Dr Amos.

“Some signs of obstructive sleep apnoea include waking up feeling unrefreshed, snoring or even ‘micro-awakenings’, resulting from breathing stoppages at night. If you have any concerns, speak with your doctor.”

4. Mental health issues

“Not only can being overweight impact your physical health, but also your mental health,” says Dr Beer.

However the link between overweight individuals and mental health isn’t as straight forward as it seems, notes Dr Amos.

“It may be that overweight individuals are at an increased risk of depression, or it may be that depressed people are more at risk of becoming obese,” she says.

Regardless of the cause, Dr Amos says that “healthy lifestyle interventions such as diet, exercise and socialising” are essential in managing ongoing mental health issues.

Weight loss wake-up call

These factors serve as a reminder that that benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go beyond fitting into a certain dress size.

“Although the aesthetic benefits might be a major driver for someone wanting to lose weight, it is also helpful to keep in mind that the non-body weight benefits of losing weight are equally, if not more, important,” says Dr Beer.

“And these benefits will be seen a lot sooner than many people may realise.”

As a starting point, Dr Beer suggests overweight individuals aim to lose around 5-10 percent of total body weight.

“Losing this relatively small amount is required to start seeing improvements in, and in some cases, completely reversing, chronic health issues related to being overweight.”

Written by Sharon Hunt.