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Obesity Vs Morbid Obesity: What Is The Difference?

Quick, what is the difference in obesity vs morbid obesity? We all know what it means to be overweight and perhaps have a clue of what obesity might be. But what about morbid obesity? Could you automatically tell the difference between these two conditions? For most of us, the answer to this would be a ‘no’. In today’s article we are going to be taking a look at the difference between obesity and morbid obesity, what is considered morbid obesity, if the term ‘morbid’ is outdated and much more.

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Obesity Vs Morbid Obesity: Definition Difference

What is obesity? When most people are faced with this question their automatic answer would be that obesity is a state of being heavy – heavier than just being overweight. While this is true, it is also only partially true and here is why.

Obesity is more than what we see. According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity is an illness that involves having an excessive amount of body fat. This abundance of body fat also increases your risk of chronic illnesses and other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

What is considered morbid obesity? For most people this term automatically refers to something/someone who is disturbingly or unpleasantly heavy/fat – but would you believe that this is not the medically correct definition for this term?

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, the medical meaning of “morbidity” means illness or disease,  not disgusting or unpleasant as society has deemed the term. The term morbid obesity implies that the obesity is severe enough to be considered a disease, and that it is often associated with other chronic health conditions. Due to this confusion, the outdated term morbid obesity has been replaced with the less societally negative term ‘Class III obesity’ (2).

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What Are The Different Levels Of Obesity?

As seen above morbid obesity is now referred to as Class III obesity, but what are the other levels/classes and what do they mean?

For those unaware, obesity classifications are determined using BMI – a screening tool that determines what your weight class is by dividing your current weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. The standard body mass index weight ranges are as follows (2, 3)

  • Underweight – Less than 18.5
  • Optimum range – 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight – 25 to 29.9
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Anything above 29.9 falls under the obesity umbrella which is further divided into 3 classes. So what are the three classes of obesity?

  1. Class I obesity (low-risk) – 30 to 34.9.
  2. Class II obesity (moderate risk) – 35 to 39.9.
  3. Class III obesity (high risk) – BMI that is equal to or more than 40.

The differences between obesity and morbid obesity do not stop here, however. As seen above, to be simply be obese your BMI should be in the 30 and above ranges, but in order for you to be classified as morbidly obese, your BMI is just one of several factors

More factors that could lead you to being diagnosed as morbidly obese include

  1. You are 100 pounds (45 kilograms) heavier than the optimum body weight range for your sex and height.
  2. You are in the Class II obesity range but are also experiencing obesity-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

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obesity vs morbid obesity

What Are The 6 Types Of Obesity?

As seen above, obesity is an umbrella term that medically, is divided into three levels. However, according to researchers and studies, obesity falls into many more clusters/types. The idea of six types of obesity comes from a study published in the Journal of Public Health in 2015.

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In the study, researchers sent questionnaires to over 28,800 people with about 4,144 of them meeting the obesity threshold of a BMI of 30 or above. The questionnaires used covers topics that ranges from basic questions such as age, sex, ethnicity and quality of life to issues such as health condition, amount of physical activity, how much alcohol they drink and if they smoke.

Once the researchers analyzed all the data they collected, they came to the conclusion that there are six clusters of obesity namely

  1. Heavy drinking males
  2. Young, healthy females
  3. Affluent, healthy elderly
  4. Physically sick but happy elderly
  5. Unhappy and anxious middle-aged persons
  6. Those with the poorest health

From these findings, the researchers concluded that when it comes to obesity and weight loss, BMI is not the only thing that counts. We must always be willing to look at other factors to determine why a person is obese. Doing this will not only help us understand why a person reached that weight/BMI range but it is also a great way to help tailor a weight loss strategy that will work for the specific individual in question – because obesity treatment and weight loss can never successfully work if we follow a one-size-fits-all strategy (6).

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obesity vs morbid obesity

FAQs

Severe Obesity Vs Morbid Obesity: Is There A Difference?

No, there isn’t. Severe obesity and morbid obesity are all one and the same.

What Does It Mean To Be Super Morbidly Obese?

While the term super morbid obesity is not officially listed under the three types of obesity, it is a term that is sometimes used in the medical field. People described as super morbidly obese are those that have a BMI of 50 or higher. There is also another group described as the ‘super super morbidly obese’ and these people are said to have a BMI greater than 60 or 80 – depending on who you ask (5, 1).

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Coding Morbid Obesity: Tips For Professionals

Obesity codes are cyphers/keys used by health professionals to show what kind of obesity a patient has. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, these are the codes that health professionals should be using (4)

  • E66.1 – Drug-induced obesity
  • E66.2 – Severe obesity with alveolar hypoventilation ( insufficient ventilation which leads to a buildup of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream)
  • E66.8 – Other obesity
  • E66.9 – Obesity, unspecified
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In the case of morbid obesity codes based on BMI for adults, the Z68.4 code is used. However, as the range increase from 40 so does the code change as follows

  1. Z68.41 = 40.0 to 44.9
  2. Z68.42 = 45.0 to 49.9
  3. Z68.43 = 50-59.9
  4. Z68.44 = 60.0 to 69.9
  5. Z68.45 = 70 or greater

The Bottom Line

When it comes to classifying obesity vs morbid obesity, the major difference lies in how high your BMI is. Despite this number, the risks of obesity also depend on other factors, such as the reason(s) for the weight gain, health history, demographics, and other factors. If your physician classifies you as morbidly obese or under Class III obesity, be sure to speak to them and find the best and safest way to bring you back to a healthy and more normal range.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. A Fatal Case of Super-super Obesity (BMI >80) in a Patient with a Necrotic Soft Tissue Infection (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. Class III Obesity (Formerly Known as Morbid Obesity) (2021, my.clevelandclinic.org)
  3. Defining Adult Overweight & Obesity (2021, cdc.gov)
  4. ICD-10 Codes for Obesity Management (n.d., aapa.org)
  5. Pathophysiological and Perioperative Features of Morbidly Obese Parturients (2009, medscape.com)
  6. Who are the obese? A cluster analysis exploring subgroups of the obese (2015, academic.oup.com)
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