Friday, June 21, 2013

Obesity a Disease?

Is obesity a disease? A result of lifestyle? An adverse effect of medications? A symptom of a disease? What is obesity and should we be trying to define it?

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), yes we do need to define it and, yes, obesity is now a disease. This declaration has surprised some in the medical community because an advisory committee had actually advised against this new designation. But the AMA isn't the only physicians' organization to say obesity is a disease. An article was published not too long ago in the British Medical Bulletin that said the same thing. The abstract says:

"Obesity is associated with the development of some of the most prevalent diseases of modem society. " It goes on to list the increased risk for diabetes, coronary heart disease, and gallbladder disease, as other problems that include the endocrine and respiratory systems. " Obesity is not a social stigma but an actual disease with a major genetic component to its aetiology and a financial cost estimated at $69 billion for the USA alone."

A CTV article says:

Supporters argued that obesity fits the criteria of a disease, since it impairs body function and can lead to serious conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Detractors argued that obesity was more of a risk factor for other conditions, rather than a disease on its own.

Critics of the new designation fear that by labeling obesity as a disease, people will stop choosing lifestyle changes as an option for losing weight. While it's true that not everyone can lose weight through changing their habits, many can - and the idea that this isn't necessary because it's a medical problem could result in more people having surgery or taking medications than is really necessary.

To be clear, not everyone who is obese is overweight because of poor diet or lack of exercise. There are biological and medical reasons that may be the driving factor. But, we can't deny that we have a problem with obesity in our society these days that is, for many people, caused by poor diets and lack of exercise.

So, is obesity a disease? What do you think?


Tracey H said...

As far as too many people having surgery, that should be up to the doctors doing the surgery (there should be an agreed-up level of obesity to do it). Maybe declaring obesity a disease will encourage some obese people to see their doctor about getting help for their obesity. I'm not obese, but I can imagine that it must feel insurmountable to lose that amount of weight. Getting help from nutritionists, exercise professionals, etc. can help some people. I do think obesity (and overweight) are probably the biggest threat to our health in North America and something needs to be done to help people prevent and "cure" it.

bookworm said...

I know so many people who have lost weight and gained it back plus a few more "punishment pounds" over and over again - I never had a weight problem until about 15 years ago and I have struggled. Weight Watchers (which enabled me to lose 30 lb but I am so scared now of regaining it) teaches us a way to live without regaining weight but why do so many of us end up failing? I don't know how much of obesity is psychological and how much is plain bad eating, but I do know someone who dieted and exercised so hard and couldn't get below about 330 lb - until she had gastric bypass surgery. I am not sure if it is a disease for everyone. I think it is for some people.