weighty matters

There Are at Least 59 Types of Obesity, According to Researchers

Photo: Patricia De La Rosa/Getty Images

It’s a strange fact that if two obese people have the same amount of excess weight, one diet might work really well for one and do nothing for the other. Even weight-loss experts are stumped as to why this happens. But increasingly, they think that it’s because obesity isn’t one disease — rather, it has many different subtypes all with their own methods of prevention and treatment. (The New York Times made an analogy to cancer: Lung cancer and skin cancer are part of the same group, but they couldn’t be more different.)

Researchers are trying to figure out exactly how many, but there are 59 kinds of obesity that we know of, according to Lee Kaplan, director of the obesity, metabolism, and nutrition institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. There are also more than 25 genes that directly affect obesity risk and more than 300 that can lead to a few extra pounds each — bad news for people who inherit a collection of the latter altered genes. Add to these genetic links other weight-gain inducing factors like sleep deprivation and certain medications and health conditions and you have many roads to the same destination.

The Times profiled six people who struggled to lose weight, all of whom went through trial and error with their doctors. Some people had success with certain diets, others by religiously counting calories, and others still with obesity drugs and even combinations of drugs that lead to weight loss and control appetite. The entire story is worth a read, but the overarching message is that if you find something right away that helps you lose weight and keep it off, you are very, very lucky.

Apparently There Are at Least 59 Types of Obesity