Obesity is Now a Disease


Image: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Obesity is now officially a disease.

The American Medical Association has formally declared obesity as a disease, a move that effectively defined one third of adults and 17% of children in the United States as being sick.

The Los Angeles Times report:

The AMA's decision essentially makes diagnosis and treatment of obesity a physician's professional obligation. As such, it should encourage primary care physicians to get over their discomfort about raising weight concerns with obese patients. Studies have found that more than half of obese patients have never been told by a medical professional they need to lose weight — a result not only of some doctors' reluctance to offend but of their unwillingness to open a lengthy consultation for which they might not be reimbursed.

Past AMA documents have referred to obesity as an "urgent chronic condition," a "major health concern" and a "complex disorder." The vote now lifts obesity above the status of a health condition, disorder or marker for heightened risk of disease — as high cholesterol is for heart disease, for instance.

"As things stand now, primary care physicians tend to look at obesity as a behavior problem," said Dr. Rexford Ahima of University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. "This will force primary care physicians to address it, even if we don't have a cure for it."

The decision, which was voted for by the members of the AMA, was controversial - it overrode AMA's own committee who recommended against reclassifying obesity as a disease (it noted that many people with high BMI are actually quite healthy).

Would it lead to "medicalizing" obesity and lead to more reliance on drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle changes? Does this mean that you have a pre-existing medical condition that would lead to higher medical insurance costs or denial of coverage altogether?

What do you think? Did the AMA do the right thing?

Should we classify obesity as a disease?




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Newest 5 Comments

There isn't an obesity epidemic. The average weight of Americans has gone up, but only by about 14 pounds. 14 pounds isn't the difference between thin and obese. It's the difference between manual labor jobs and desk jobs.
The "epidemic" was invented by bad science, and the re-defining of "Obese" to include millions of Americans who were previously classed as "normal" or "overweight".
Look for an article at Cato.org called "The Myth of an 'Obesity Tsunami.'"
There is not an epidemic of obesity. There is an epidemic of intolerance toward fat people.
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I definitely see your point, but let me play devil's advocate and ask: why are Americans so fat compared to people from other countries? And why are Americans NOW are more fat than they've ever been historically?
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Too late!

Nail biting or onychophagy is considered an impulse control disorder, for which there are treatment (like habit reversal therapy and stimulus control therapy).

Excessive flatulence is a symptom of excessive intestinal gas, and is treatable with antiflatulent agents.

Fear of bathing or ablutophobia is common, and can be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Introverted personality and introverted disorder of childhood is defined as a personality disorder in the World Health Organization manual. So is extrovert personality disorder, though that is more controversial.

Extreme tallness is a symptom of some disorders, like Marfan syndrome. Extreme shortness or dwarfism can be caused by many medical conditions. Some forms of dwarfism can be treated with hormonal therapy.

And so on and so on :)
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