Obesity in Men: What You Need to Know

| June 1, 2022

by Pankaj Timsina, MD, FOMA

Dr. Timsina is a family medicine doctor in Denver, Colorado and has been a Fellow of the Obesity Medicine Association since 2020. He specializes in bariatric medicine and obesity and weight management.

Funding: No funding was provided.

Disclosures: The author has no conflict of interest relevant to the content of this article. 

Bariatric Times. 2022;19(6):20


Obesity is a global public health concern that affects more than 650 million adults,1 or about 13 percent of the world’s adult population. In the United States (US), the latest data2 shows that 71 percent of American adults have overweight, and of those, 42 percent have obesity. 

Women have a higher prevalence of severe obesity (11.5%) than men (6.9%).3 However, a recent study4 found men are more likely to have diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and hyperlipidemia—and the risk of these illnesses increases with age and body mass index (BMI). Additionally, obesity has been found to have detrimental effects on the male urogenital system5 and is associated with increased risks of urological conditions.

Obesity is a complex health issue for men and women alike. But men with overweight and obesity are at a greater risk of serious health complications. In fact, one study6 of nearly four million men and women discovered that the risk of dying before the age of 70 years was 30 percent for men with obesity and 15 percent for women with obesity. That’s why, as providers, we must start a dialogue with our patients about obesity and provide proactive, compassionate care to set up patients for success.   

Causes and conditions. Obesity affects more than two in five men,7 with a higher prevalence in middle-income groups. While there are many contributing factors to obesity in men, the most common are genetics, environmental factors, metabolic changes, and eating habits. For instance, men who were athletes when they were younger might struggle with weight issues later in life after they stop training. This happens as they continue to eat the same way but are not as active as they were before.

In addition to serious health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and hyperlipidemia, a Harvard study8 found obesity can also have other negative impacts on men’s health, including 

  • Lower testosterone levels: testosterone levels slowly drift downward in early middle age; the drop is about one percent per year, but some studies have shown that after the age of 40 years, with every point rise in BMI, there is an average two-percent drop in testosterone. 
  • Infertility: obesity can affect fertility by decreasing sperm counts and motility. 
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): men with waists of 43 inches or larger were 2.4 times more likely to need surgery for BPH than men with waists smaller than 35 inches.
  • Kidney stones: a recent study of men found that high BMIs and large waist circumferences are both linked to an increased risk of kidney stones. 
  • Prostate cancer: extra body fat increases a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, and having obesity boosts the risk of cancer by 20 percent.8 

Men’s health is mainstream. Some people think women struggle with obesity more than men because of things like birth control pills, pregnancy, and postmenopausal weight gain, but the truth is that women seek more help than men do, so they are more likely to present as patients. Historically, men have felt their weight was something they could easily handle on their own through diet and exercise. In my practice, I’m seeing a shift in this attitude, however, with more men now seeking medical help for weight loss.

From my perspective, there are also different social stigmas and societal pressures put on men with obesity. In general, our society has been more accepting of men with overweight than women with overweight, but this has been changing too. Men are becoming more motivated to lose weight because they want to avoid health issues and be healthier.

As providers, it’s crucial for us to stay current on the latest health guidelines and arm ourselves with the knowledge to help our patients live their lives to the fullest. By embracing data that sheds light on how obesity affects women and men differently, we can do our part to offer evidence-based care that allows patients to be successful. 

For more clinical resources and the most up-to-date information on obesity medicine, visit the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) website at https://obesitymedicine.org/. To become a member of the OMA, visit https://obesitymedicine.org/join/. 

 References

  1. World Health Organization. Obesity and overweight. 9 Jun 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight. Accessed 11 May 2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult obesity facts. Reviewed 30 Sept 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html. Accessed 11 May 2022.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity among adults: United States, 2017–2018. Reviewed 27 Feb 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db360.htm. Accessed 11 May 2022. 
  4. Nordström A, Hadrévi J, Olsson T, et al. Higher prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in men than in women is associated with differences in visceral fat mass. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016;101(10):3740–3746.
  5. Albayrak AT, Serefoglu EC. Obesity and men’s health. Yafi FA, Yafi NR, eds. In: Effects of Lifestyle on Men’s Health. Academic Press; 2019:149–168.
  6. Reinberg S. Obesity more deadly for men than women. WebMD. 13 Jul 2016. https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/news/20160713/obesity-more-deadly-for-men-than-women-study. Accessed 11 May 2022.
  7. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Overweight and obesity statistics. Reviewed Sept 2021. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity. Accessed 11 May 2022. 
  8. Harvard Health Publishing. Obesity: unhealthy and unmanly. 1 Mar 2011. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/obesity-unhealthy-and-unmanly. Accessed 11 May 2022.

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Category: Current Issue, Medical Methods in Obesity Treatment

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