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Obesity Declared a Disease


AMA Declares Last Week: Obesity a Disease

Is this good or bad for society?

In America, one third of society is now obese. According to a recent report by NPR, Dr. Douglas Martin, chairman of the American Medical Association public health committee, stated "We felt it's time to take a stance and say we're going to identify this as a disease. We think that's going to send a message not only to the public but to the physician community that we really need to make it a priority and put it in our cross hairs." In the past, the A.M.A referred to obesity as an "urgent chronic condition," "a major health concern," and "a complex disorder." The hope is that more physicians will be inclined to reach out to obese patients, where as previously this subject was an uncomfortable topic to approach. This will force physicians to address the issue, even if there is no current 'cure' for it.

BMI Chart

Obesity for an adult is defined by the government as "An adult who has a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher." BMI is calculated using a person's weight and height. So, for example, if a person is 5'9" and weighs 203 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) BMI calculator, this person would have a BMI of 30, classifying them as obese by these standards. 

Is Obesity a Disease?

Obesity Is a disease resized 600There has been an abundant amount of debate as to whether or not obesity is in fact a disease, or if it is a condition that creates disease. Meaning that, obesity can lead to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, and many other debilitating illnesses. These diseases are the leading cause of preventable death among Americans today. Similarly, this train of thought has also been applied to the issue of smoking. Smoking is by no means a disease in the normal sense, however that as well can lead to many chronic diseases.

Take a look at this chart to the left to see some issues characteristic of  obesity. This just shows a brief overview of some very common problems that come hand in hand with this "disease."

Where do you Stand on Obesity as a Disease?

A recent New York Times article cited that the Council on Science and Public Health studied the issue of obesity over the past year, and declared that obesity should in fact not be classified as a disease. They're reasoning was mainly because "the measure usually used to define obesity, the body mass index, is simplistic and flawed." The NYT reported that the council also summarized the arguments for and against calling obesity a disease.

One reason in favor of the obesity debate was that it would "reduce the stigma of obesity that stems from the widespread perception that it is simply the result of eating too much or exercising too little. Some doctors say that people do not have full control over their weight." However, the council reported that those who argued against it felt that there weren't any symptoms associated with obesity and that it is more than a risk factor for other conditions than simply a disease.

Additionally, opponents of the classification believe that “medicalizing” obesity will "define one-third of Americans as being ill and could lead to more reliance on costly drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle changes. Some people might be overtreated because their BMI was above a line designating them as having a disease, even though they were healthy."

Ultimately, there is no question that obesity is an epidemic in our country. But where do you weigh in on the debate? Let us know in the comments below. 



Author: Dr. Gregory Soltanoff

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