Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Obesity and Overweight mean weighing more than is considered healthy for a given height. Metabolic Syndrome is a group of conditions, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat/obesity. Obesity, overweight, and metabolic syndrome can all greatly increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Causes of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome:

  • Behaviors like eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity, as well as one’s metabolism, genetics, income level and culture can all play a role in causing people to become obesity or overweight.
  • The role of environmental exposures is becoming increasingly well recognized. The chemicals that we are exposed to in our surrounding environment, as well as how much and what we eat and drink, can alter our bodies’ energy balance and help cause overweight/obesity.
  • Metabolic syndrome is related to the body’s metabolism, or energy usage and balance. Insulin resistance, where your body’s ability to burn the fuel from food is impaired, can play a significant role in developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • Insulin resistance probably results from a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Some people may be genetically prone to insulin resistance, inheriting the tendency from their parents. But being overweight and inactive are major contributors to the development of insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.

Incidence of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome:

  • Over one third of Americans are obese.
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. These are some of the leading causes of death in the United States.
  • In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion in the United States.
  • Compared to other racial groups, adults of Mexican origin are at increased risk of developing diseases related to obesity, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and uncontrolled hypertension.
  • Metabolic syndrome incidence is higher in people over age 60 than in younger people, and is higher in Hispanics and Asians than in other racial groups.
  • According to the American Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, metabolic syndrome is becoming more common due to a rise in obesity rates among adults. In the future, metabolic syndrome may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.

Childhood Obesity:

  • Since 1980, obesity rates among children and adolescents in the United States has almost tripled.
  • Children from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups have very different rates of obesity.
  • Approximately 33% of young Mexican-American children in the US are considered overweight or obese, which is higher than both non-Hispanic white (25%) and black (24%) children.
  • Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults.

What can you do?

  • It is possible to prevent or delay metabolic syndrome and obesity, mainly with lifestyle changes. Regularly eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of physical activity are important parts of protecting yourself from obesity and metabolic syndrome.
  • A healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment. Successfully controlling metabolic syndrome and obesity require long-term effort and teamwork with your health care providers.

CERCH Findings on Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome:

  • CERCH Study of children of Mexican descent living in California versus living in Mexico: (Go to Publication)
    • The prevalence of childhood obesity is high among young children of Mexican origin in the United States, however, the determinants are poorly understood.
    • CERCH conducted a binational study with a sample from California and Mexico, to identify and compare the most important factors associated with overweight and obesity among children of Mexican descent.
    • Significantly more children were classified as overweight or obese in the sample of Mexican children living in California, compared to children living in Mexico (53.3 vs. 14.9%).
    • In samples from both California and Mexico, having an obese mother was significantly associated with being overweight or obese.
    • In Mexico, male gender, high socioeconomic status and very low food insecurity were associated with being overweight or obese.
    • These data offer hypotheses for how migration may influence the high prevalence of overweight among the Mexican children in California.

For more information about Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome, visit:

Print This Page Print This Page