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Obesity as a disease: Both sides of this debate

Obesity as a disease: Both sides of this debate

by Stefan VintilaJune 24, 2013

Recently the American Medical Association classified OBESITY as a disease. This has send ripples into our culture as the AMA has thrown the gauntlet and is forcing us to look at this issue. We all know that obesity is a huge medical problem and leads to many life-threatening diseases which are costing us a fortune in healthcare expenses…but…is it a disease per se?

Let’s look at some arguments on both sides of this debate-

Obesity is a disease
  • The move by the American Medical Assn. board means that one-third of adults and 17% of children in the U.S. have a medical condition that requires treatment
  • 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
  • The causes of obesity are complex because they include genetics, stress, the food supply, medications, and many other factors. One could argue that self-discipline can’t cure obesity alone.
  • The AMA, which voted for the change on Tuesday, concurs, saying they hope their decision will prompt greater communication between doctors and patients
  • If obesity is thought of as a disease, insurance companies will be more supportive of obese people, researchers will pursue the problem more aggressively, public health efforts to curb obesity will be strengthened, and individual clinicians
  • Obesity is associated with a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk for cancer
  • By classifying obesity as a disease, people are able to receive coverage from their insurance – then they are more likely to seek nutritional counseling
  • The direct cost of obesity is over $535 billion a year. If we raise awareness, we can potentially lower our health care spending for problems related to obesity
Obesity should not be a disease
  • Telling all obese people that they have a disease could end up reducing their sense of control over their ability to change their diet and exercise patterns. As experience with addictions has shown, giving people the sense that they suffer from a disease that is out of their control can become self-defeating
  • Since insurance will make adjustments to cover procedures that treat obesity, more people will opt for bariatric surgery. Some of them probably won’t need to take that drastic of a route.
  • Patients might use “disease” classification as a crutch
  • This becomes a lifestyle and societal problem for the vast majority of obese people. Look at the proliferation of chemicals, additives, and GMO foods the American public is subject to. Other nations have GMO foods labeled as such by law.
  • Why is America suffering from this “disease”?
  • People who are impoverished generally DON’T have access to, or can’t afford, properly balanced diets. They also may not have access to proper nutritional information either. And the food that is readily available to them tends to have a highly disproportionate amount of carbs
  • The changes we need are political and economic. We need safe neighborhoods with adequate opportunities for sport and exercise at all ages. We need good quality physical education and high quality food in all schools. We need better availability of healthy foods, preferably with subsidies that make them at least as affordable as unhealthy foods. We need workplaces that actively encourage fitness and health, e.g., allowing mid-day health club breaks, organized walking, and, where applicable, healthier options in the cafeteria
  • Issues with the BMI calculator being too general and not accommodating individual characteristics. We need a better standard to diagnose patients

These are just some main bullet points for each side of this argument. There are obviously many more as the issue is complex, personal, and heated. We’d like to hear from YOU.

What do YOU think about this? Let’s have a dialogue about this and see if we could tease out some points. This issue affects all of us and its important to know that it will take a concerted effort to resolve it. Attaching a diagnosis to a word doesn’t fix the problem. If it did- heart disease, diabetes, and cancer would be things of the past. It directs our attention to the issue but the real question to YOU is- how do we SOLVE this?



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About The Author
Stefan Vintila