Obesity a Disease? Not

So it was just decided by the American Medical Association (AMA) that obesity is a disease.

Say what?

The New York Times reported today that this move "could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments," not just make fat people feel better.

To me a disease is breast cancer, or anemia or diabetes, not something that you can control.  But then I suppose that's part of the argument (and I certainly know as well as anyone), that weight isn't always a matter of making it move up or down.

But if we classify it as a disease, doesn't that give people who need to lose weight more of an excuse not to?  "I have a disease, so I can't help it," is the first thing that came to my mind.

Now maybe that's just me.  But I know when I was really overweight, I tried to blame it on my under-active thyroid, my genetics, even my breast cancer, just so I'd have a reason to feel better about not cutting back.

The physicians, however, felt that it would give credibility to the condition as something that needs help to overcome,and thereby might make overweight people more likely to reach out.

"Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the association’s board, said in a statement, according to the story, suggesting that "the new definition would help in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are linked to obesity."

An interesting point is that the whole thing is mostly "semantics," as The Times pointed out, as there is not a "universally recognized" definition of 'disease' itself.

Another point the AMA made was that now, doctors might take it more seriously as a health issue.  What?  It seems many don't.

According to the story, the organization's own Council on Science and Public Health, which had studied the issue over the last year, said obesity should not be considered a disease, "mainly because the measure usually used to define obesity, the body mass index, is simplistic and flawed."

Critics say that “'medicalizing' obesity by declaring it a disease would define one-third of Americans as being ill and could lead to more reliance on costly drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle changes," writes article author Andrew Pollack.

But something the resolution said, to me, was the last word.  "“The suggestion that obesity is not a disease but rather a consequence of a chosen lifestyle exemplified by overeating and/or inactivity is equivalent to suggesting that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes."



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