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Obesity is Now a Disease

Obesity is Now a Disease

We, as Americans, are fat. That doesn’t mean that we are all fat; it just means that nearly 1/3 of Americans are obese and for this we pay out $147 billion annually in medical expenditures related to obesity. If this strikes you as shocking, well, this is not something that has happened overnight. Some say we have been moving toward this cataclysm of an epidemic for decades now. Some blame the fast food industry. Some blame the pervasive culture of desire and greed. Some blame the individual for just eating way too much. Blame aside, obesity is, and remains, a huge problem in this country and seems to be doing anything but going away.

As of last week, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially recognized obesity as a disease, which is a term that is made in effort to change the way the medical establishment wrestles with issues related to obesity. The labeling of obesity as a “disease” might not immediately change how doctors treat patients directly, but it will most certainly change the way obesity-related conditions are covered by insurance.

As it stands now, doctors are not readily encouraged to have the, sometimes, difficult conversations with patients about things like diet, exercise, and lifestyle decisions, not because they are awkward and difficult, but because such conversations are not reimbursed. So if the doctors don’t get paid, there is no incentive to alert a patient to their declining health. Instead doctors are driven toward conversations about procedures, rather than prevention. In the case of obesity, which is connected to everything from heart disease to diabetes, this is tragic.

Now that obesity is labeled as a disease, the hope is that there will be more of these diet and exercise conversations taking place (and paid for by insurance companies). But beyond the economics of the disease, it is hard to know how much this label will actually change. Could there be repercussions, such as more drugs created and unnecessarily prescribed? Will this label lead to more stigma? Also, by labeling obesity as a disease, will this take the focus off the food system, which markets cheap, substandard, nutritionally vacant foodstuffs to the masses at the expense of nearly everyone? Time will tell.

What do you think of this decision? Weigh in below.

Related:
Obesity Causes and Solutions

Read more: Blogs, Cholesterol, Diabetes, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Fitness, Following Food, General Health, Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, Life, News & Issues, Obesity, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

104 comments

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5:49PM PDT on May 16, 2014

"...the food system, which markets cheap, substandard, nutritionally vacant foodstuffs to the masses at the expense of nearly everyone?..."

This is so true. I am on a government pension. I am grateful to be on this pension, and fortunate to have a roof over my head, food and electricity. However, the food my money can afford is nutritionally sparse and high in fats and sugars. It is ironic that living in a time of plenty, supermarkets are progressively becoming nutritional deserts. It is argued that a person chooses to become obese. I was told that if I put on weight from what I eat then I am not making intelligent food choices. One could have near genius intelligence and still be challenged to find nutritionally dense, affordable foods. When the foods that are manufactured contain ingredients detrimental to health, and only enough nutritional content to be considered a food, then the food manufacturers are to blame for the obesity epidemic. I accept that portion sizes are the responsibility of the consumer, however, when the food placed on the supermarket shelf is ninety percent fat and sugar and ten percent nutritious, the manufacturers need to step up and admit they are providing inferior products and laws need to be passed to regulate, restrict and where necessary ban the food products supplied by manufacturers.

11:46PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

7:18AM PDT on Jul 14, 2013

I'm really tired of all the people on message boards saying how we need to do this and that with our bodies. It's my body, I'll do what I want with it. And if that means being fat and happy, and confidently looking in the mirror, then I will. I am not obese, but I certainly am not thin. If people like Deborah W. think that looking in the mirror "will remind you of missed opportunities, time wasted." Then that is her problem. I certainly do not think my body reminds me of missed opportunities, and I certainly am living my life to the fullest.

11:11PM PDT on Jul 3, 2013

I just wonder how many people are really interested in doing something about their health rather than just earn butterfly reward points by writing 'Thanks'?
This isn't just a matter for someone who is obese.
All of us need to be concerned and do something about our health today.. will show in the disease we have in the future. Most diseases such as heart problems, asthma, cancer, etc, etc are from nutritional problems. So your baby/child/parent/ yourself may be ok today but disease will catch up to you.

2:27PM PDT on Jul 3, 2013

thanks.

9:29PM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

Noted.

1:53PM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

wonder how this will work out. the article referenced said the AMA can't legally enforce anything new to be covered by insurance.

6:12AM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

We are eating more and more foods because of a combination of various factors- yes, poor choices and poor quality foods.. but also out of a need to eat more to feel satisfied.
Satisfied because we need to eat more than twice the amount of foods -fruit, vegetables-because the nutritional value has decreased so much over the past 20/50/100 years.
Contaminants in cosmetics & food may worsen metabolic problems of obesity
Personal care products such as skin, hair, dental products, color cosmetics & food contaminants including dioxin, PCB, and BPA may increase the risks of obesity by worsening metabolic responses, warn researchers.
The study, published in The Faseb Journal, introduced a 'cocktail' of contaminants - mixed with low doses of dioxin, PCB, bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates - into the feeding of mice. The study found that the addition of low level contaminants resulted in metabolic changes in mice - but noted that the effects seen differ between males and females.
More info on this and what to do to stay safe.. short youtube clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZzNfnrFw4M

The team revealed that females appeared to be more affected by the contaminants, with obesity-induced glucose intolerances worsened and oestrogen pathways was altered.
"With this study, we have succeeded in providing proof-of-concept that low doses of contaminants, even at levels normally considered to be without health impacts in humans, do in fact affect humans when subjected to c

10:19PM PDT on Jun 30, 2013

So what are you saying ... shut down the fast food industry because some can't or won't control their gluttoness behavior? Great idea, further erase the need for responsibility, accountabliity and self-control with the blame game -- easy out, no guilt.

Not a good plan ... unless there is a genetic link involved and help called for, YOU feed your fat. True that through a certain age you are provided food by the stewards of your care. However, when you grow up and look in the mirror, change becomes a personal choice, you call the shots.

Like what you see? If not, begin small steps toward change. It takes hard work but the good news is that each day is new and presents endless opportunities for change. Your investment will be its own reward.

(Wonder how long it'll take to be added to the healthcare list of covered, uncovered, or partially covered. Even doctors and drug companies are waiting while Washington's non-medical army picks and chooses. If they don't like the way things are, they have the choice to walk away, you won't.)

Easier to take command starting now. If not important enough to you, don't worry, there are plus size stores to accommodate, just don't look in the mirror too often ... will remind you of missed opportunities, time wasted, defeat OR could it be the jolt needed to begin anew?

We are products of our choices, it's all up to you. Yesterday is over, and tomorrow's far away, so, please don't waste a moment of the time that is today.

7:04PM PDT on Jun 30, 2013

Processed foods, poor eating habits, sugars, and other addictive 'food' makes it difficult for the body to maintain good health. It is more than a battle of the bulge disease...it takes education and conscious lifestyle change to choose well-being.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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