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Lifestyle isn’t the only cause of obesity

From Memorial Health System

Obesity is a statewide problem. Based on 2022 data, two in five adults in Mississippi are obese or morbidly obese, and nearly half of Mississippi children are overweight or obese.

Dr. Simhachalam Gurugubelli, an internal medicine specialist at Memorial, received training in obesity medicine at Harvard. This training makes him one of the very few internal medicine physicians in the nation who have specialized in obesity medicine. Since his training in internal medicine during his residency, he has been passionate about helping people suffering from obesity.

“I wish more people knew that obesity is a disease that could be from genetic predisposition or other secondary causes and not lifestyle choices alone,” he says.


Obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A body mass index greater than 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese.


Several factors can cause obesity. It’s an imbalance between the amount of energy (calories) someone consumes versus how much he or she uses. Obesity primarily is concerned with metabolism and the regulation of appetite, as well as physical activity. Medications like antipsychotics, antidepressants, diabetes or blood pressure drugs, oral contraceptives or antiretroviral therapy can play a role in obesity. Additionally, increased frequency of eating, a high-fat diet and neuroendocrine causes like hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Cushing syndrome or a genetic condition can cause obesity.


The most common measurement used to screen for obesity is body mass index. A primary-care provider may screen for diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia (when blood lipid levels are too high or low), heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea and cancer during annual wellness visits because obesity increases the risk of developing certain illnesses and health problems.


For those with a body mass index less than 30, lifestyle interventions such as diet, exercise and behavior changes are recommended. Eating right and exercising continue to be important for those struggling to control their weight. However, for those with a BMI greater than 30, medications are available to help treat their obesity.

For this with a BMI greater than 30 with co-morbidities such as type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, debilitating arthritis, hypertension and other diseases, weight loss surgery is an option and typically is recommended for those with a BMI over 35.

If you are struggling with your weight and need support, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to see what options are available.

Memorial offers both primary care services and virtual visits. Learn more by visiting or by calling (228) 867-5000.

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