Synonyms in a broader sense

Medical: AdiposityObesity, obesity, obesity These terms are used in Germany synonymously to the term overweight. The term obesity is no longer used because it can be discriminatory and is also medically incorrect. All terms describe people who are “heavier” than others and usually have an increased body fat. One speaks of overweight if the body weight, judged by the Body Mass Index (BMI) is increased. According to the BMI a distinction is made between

  • Underweight
  • Normal weight
  • Overweight and
  • Obesity

Body Mass Index

The Body Mass Index is a calculated value that can be used to assess whether a person is overweight and, if so, how much. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization) as a guideline. The Body Mass Index is calculated from height and weight and therefore disregards gender, stature and age and may only be used for adults. However, the Body Mass Index does not give a particularly detailed indication of overweight, as the body composition is not taken into account. Detailed information on the calculation and application can be found under Body Mass Index.


Basically, fat accumulation and overweight can only occur if the energy intake from food is higher than the energy consumption, i.e. if the energy balance is positive. However, the tendency to be overweight varies from individual to individual, a family history of obesity is apparent, and a genetic disposition (predisposition) is suspected. Of course, the influence of the environment (lifestyle with regard to nutrition and exercise) and the role model function of parents must also be taken into account.

Genetic research has been able to describe genetic defects in animal models (environmental influences can be largely ruled out here), which have provided groundbreaking findings also for human obesity. One discovered the so-called ob gene and its product leptin (gr. Leptos = slim).

In the absence of biologically active leptin, the test animals were too fat and ate too much compared to their conspecifics. In humans, three models are used with regard to studies on heredity: The type, quantity and quality of the ingested food seems to be more environmentally related and seems to be learned from parents, siblings and other caregivers due to their role model function. Eating behavior and eating habits as well as the preference and aversion to certain foods are acquired in childhood, while reduced energy consumption (basal metabolic rate, thermogenesis (body heat), physical activity) can be inherited and is genetically determined.

However, being overweight does not at the same time mean increased fat deposits. A too high proportion of muscle mass is also called overweight.

  • Family examination
  • Adoption studies and
  • Twin research.