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Yes, Obesity Is a Disease

Health & Wellness  (tags: americans, children, diet, disease, drugs, exercise, food, healthcare, government, medicine, nutrition, prevention, research, risks, safety, treatment, warning )

- 1763 days ago -
Although we are only in the second decade of the 21st century, from a health standpoint, this period has already been labeled as the century of chronic disease.

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday June 19, 2013, 3:00 pm
Photo Credit: Ljupco Smokovski | Dreamstime

Although we are only in the second decade of the 21st century, from a health standpoint, this period has already been labeled as the century of chronic disease. Whereas the 20th century saw the eradication of many infectious diseases and the development of vaccines, the 21st century has started with an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

While that might sound less threatening, it is, in fact, not. Despite The United States' huge investment in health care, life expectancy is expected to decline. The obesity epidemic is increasing at such a fast pace that, if the current trend continues, the entire country will be obese by 2050.

From an economic standpoint, the obesity and diabetes epidemic , or diabesity, will make health-care reform and cost-containment nearly impossible to achieve. Rates for permanent disability continue to rise, with obesity-related conditions being the leading cause. A December 2012 article in the Journal The Lancet, one of the world's most preeminent medical journals, revealed that for the first time in the history of the world, more people will now die from obesity than famine.

That is why the American Medical Association's (AMA) decision to label obesity a disease is so essential. We cannot continue to be naive and believe that simple education will be effective. Obesity must be aggressively treated and prevented. Additionally, methods that may be effective for prevention, such as education and behavior modification, will not be adequate treatment for the majority of those afflicted.

Many reading this piece will feel that obesity is a matter of personal choice and self-control. They will argue that it is not society's responsibility to control poor dietary choices and a reluctance to exercise. But, we have to realize that if something is becoming so common, maybe our current system promotes obesity.

In my opinion, potential causes include the advent of industrial farming, women working leading to fewer meals being prepared at home, and the availability of snacks based on simple carbohydrates. We also cannot forget that as smoking rates have declined, obesity has risen. This by no means should be taken as an encouragement to smoke, but demonstrates how multifactorial and complex the issue is.

Certainly our behavior impacts our health . But, this is true for every condition. Heart disease and cancer are still our largest killers. Both are significantly impacted by obesity and lifestyle choices. Few realize that those with obesity have a far worse prognosis if they also have been diagnosed with cancer. In fact, recent studies have shown that the survival rate is reduced by approximately 50 percent for obese women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The AMA's decision is a start to allowing our society to find real solutions and stop blaming the person. As a compassionate society that opposes discrimination, it is imperative that we eliminate bias based on body habitus. Although data have shown the huge negative impact of obesity on health, access to treatment remains limited. The goal of health care reform is to make affordable care available to all citizens. However, the majority of the health care exchanges created by the individual states exclude coverage for obesity and obesity surgery. Thus, while first lady Michelle Obama has made obesity her priority, the Affordable Health Care Act will not increase access to care.

No matter what the cause or any individual's personal opinion, the obesity epidemic is a problem that we all need to solve. In the 20-plus years since former surgeon general Everett Koop stated that obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are the country's biggest medical issues and began a nationwide educational effort, the problem has only increased. Even stabilizing a reduction in growth is now considered a success.

Therefore, doctors and citizens alike need to realize that the solutions will be painful and impinge on choice. People were fast to criticize Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his sugar tax. While there were many issues with the bill and the fact that the mayor and the department of health had limited jurisdiction, his instincts are right on target. We need a new approach. The price of foods will need to be adjusted.

Just as we have no child left behind for education, we need to teach every child to value their body and their health. We have become a country that defines ourselves by how much money we make, what we do for a living, where we live and how much power we have. We have assigned our health to providers and the pharmaceutical companies. We need to change this culture.

But, this will be a lengthy and difficult process. For those with severe obesity, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, there are few lasting solutions. Surgery remains the only effective treatment. Of course, our society cannot operate ourselves out of the obesity epidemic, yet these procedures can be lifesaving for many important members of our society. They must have access to care!

But, as a society, we need to figure out a way to make it less likely that individuals will become severely obese. This starts by recognizing early signs and intervening. The AMA began the process by labeling obesity as a disease. This allows primary care doctors to objectively analyze weight-related issues and suggest treatment without being perceived as being judgmental or condescending. With more people being treated, research for treatment options will increase. To date, treatment for obesity has mainly occurred by personal choice. As a result, frequently those most concerned with their weight get treated, not necessarily the people who need it most.

While the AMA's decision does not change any laws or authorize reimbursement for treatment, it makes efforts to deny care less appropriate and hopefully enables meaningful policies to be developed.

By: Dr. Mitchell Roslin | Op Ed | Live Science |

Dr Mitchell Roslin is chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, holds several patents for the treatment of obesity and designed a method for treating relapse after gastric bypass. Roslin has expertise in laparoscopic obesity surgery, duodenal switch surgery and revisional bariatric surgery. He contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

****The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on Live .


JL A (281)
Wednesday June 19, 2013, 3:33 pm
Important issue and a couple of factors the author omitted:
Less student time in recess and PE in our schools (and less in after school hours, too)
GMO corn and wheat associations with weight gain
Transformation to information workers chained to chairs/computers who move less than manufacturing and other workers
Longer average commutes adding to sitting time and reduced time for meal preparation or exercise

Sherri G (128)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 2:33 am
My concern and mistrust is with the insurance industry who may use it to charge or refuse coverage for anyone they deed is obese. If the classification is used to help those who need it that is one thing. But if the insurance companies use this against anyone trying to get or keep their insurance or to raise their rates it may do more harm than good. TY Kit noted

Kit B (276)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 5:00 am

Thanks J L for adding that insight. It would be lovely if parents would turn off the TV sit and eat dinner with the children, or if alone with your own thoughts, plan a walk after eating.

Sherri, I think the insurance companies will find that under the new law, they can not limit coverage for preexisting conditions. Obesity is something that can be conquered, though it will take new ideas in how we look at food. We are a junk food nation, casual eaters, sometimes emotional eaters, that can change.

One of my neighbors finally had the surgery a year a ago, she has lost 100 pounds. She shed pounds, found a new way to cook meals and has lost both the need for a C-PAP machine for sleep, and diabetes is no longer a part of her of her life. It seems to me, the insurance company just found a win.

Past Member (0)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 10:50 am
It may be so...and there are several reasons that can loan itself to obesity. I do however have a real issue with obese people gorging themselves on buckets of KFC and feasting on portions that can feed a family of 4---basically treating their bodies as a human trash can. Not sure I can see that side being any sort of disease...Thanks Kit

Mike M (43)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 10:57 am
Obesity is a disease. It is physical, mental and physiological. The factors of the GMO foods and the lack of minerals in foods now cause many problems.

Kathy B (106)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 12:48 pm
Too many thoughts on this running around in my head to express them all - if I did it would be just one giant ramble :)

I'll add to what Mike M. said and state that in some cases I believe it can be inherited, I guess that makes it still a disease?

I would also like to ask - do they still teach cooking in school? Home Economics was mandatory for girls when I was in school - optional for boys, while I think it would have been a good idea at the time to make it mandatory for both sexes I don't have children, so I don't know what they're teaching in school these days.

Joanne D (38)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 1:39 pm
Obesity is not one disease, it is many. When are we ever going to learn that people's bodies are as different as their spirits, and there is NO health care concept for which one size fits all.

Deborah W (6)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 1:57 pm
With the exception of genetics and family history, I'm of the old school on this ... we are products of our own personal choices and must take responsibility for our own finished product. Good news is most are still works in progress so hope springs eternal as brain function kicks in.

This is perfect for medical misuse and abuse, unnecessary screenings while bumping needed attention, hiked prices for proper meds and special device needs above and beyond what's covered as normal, decided by non-physician board types, laws mandating what and how much you can eat/drink, more rules, regulations and paperwork to clog an already unworkable system. NOT BUYING,IT, THANKS ANYWAY.

Andres Arcesio T. (0)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 2:31 pm
Not that it's something political, and society is more recognized as long ago as a disease, it really did not allow was recognized by the health service companies, for he would be forced to pay for expensive, that would get rid of them by the mere fact of recognizing it as a lifestyle. health at the hands of the free market became a business and as such produce profits by avoiding costs to the maximum.
Fortificacion - Nutricion y bienestar

S S (0)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 2:33 pm
Thank you.

Claudia O (73)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 2:56 pm
Obesity is very complex, as others have pointed out. We need a LOT more education about how to deal with this social, physical and mental problem. I agree with Joanne Dixon when she said our bodies are different and no one health-care plan will fit everyone. Whether or not obesity is a disease is still something I question, but it sure is a major problem no matter how you label it.

Birgit W (160)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 3:02 pm

Sharon W. (4)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 4:00 pm
Obesity is not one disease.It is a symptom which itself can lead to big problems, but as it can have different causes, you can cal it symptom or several diseases.

Past Member (0)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 4:45 pm
What *treatment* could there be that would suddenly force a person to admit to himself that he's killing himself by his actions and placing a huge burden on society? Can you grow a conscience?

Paul Wellman (1)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 6:06 pm
Dr. David Kessler, a Harvard trained doctor, University of Chicago trained lawyer, medical school dean and former Food and Drug Commissioner has a theory described in his book The End of Overeating

While head of the FDA from 1990 to 1997 Dr. Kessler led the investigation of the Tobacco Industry and led the attempts to place it under federal regulation. His actions against the tobacco industry has led to billion dollar settlements against these tobacco companies.

Dr. Kessler describes the actions of the Big Food industry as parallel to Big Tobacco.

"Highly palatable" foods containing fat, sugar and salt stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center have been promoted. In time, the brain gets wired so that dopamine pathways light up at the mere suggestion of the food, such as driving past a fast-food restaurant, and the urge to eat the food grows insistent. Once the food is eaten, the brain releases opioids, which bring emotional relief. Together, dopamine and opioids create a pathway that can activate every time a person is reminded about the particular food. This happens regardless of whether the person is hungry. Dr. Kesslers research has found that about eight five percent of the population is vulnerable to this additive behavior with only about fifteen percent have been found to be immune. Kessler has said:

"The challenge is how do we explain to America what's going on -- how do we break through and help people understand how their brains have been captured?"

Kessler has nailed it - We Have Been Programmed!

If I were king I would turn Dr. Kessler loose on Big Food and have them paying to re-educate us on what constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle. Just like he did with Big Tobacco.
Yeah! Yu gotta dream!

Kit B (276)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 6:21 pm

I don't know that people have to grow a conscience, but they do need to have an awareness. By recognizing obesity as a disease, we do not condone it, we begin the process of treating it like any other problem In the case of obesity, address the diet, exercise, and depression problems, which may need some hours of talk therapy. We have all seen people abuse themselves with food. Often with lousy food as mentioned, KFC, a bucket of grease.

Thank you for the information about Dr Kessler, Paul. Learning how our brains respond to food is a great beginning for all of us. Knowing that within those responses is the gap between normal eating for sustenance and trigger eating to get the release of 'feel good' stuff from the brain.
That it connects to same devices used by Tobacco to get a nation 'hooked' on cigarettes is not a surprise, but is deeply insidious.


Deb E (63)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 10:22 pm
The endocrine system is responsible for metabolism and the foods people have been fed are known endocrine disruptors. Thyroid disease is rampant in this country and the thyroid is the first line of defense for what is taken into the body. When looked at in that context, it most certainly IS a disease, and not one of people always stuffing their faces with KFC. Yes, there are many who eat poorly and become overweight because of it, but there are also those who eat "anything" ... sugar, carbs, sodas ... you name it ... all the time and yet they do not gain weight. Most of those will find themselves suffering from some sort of disease process from it, but not always one of obesity. And the "design' of this addiction to the wrong kinds of foods is very insidious. Not only are the junk food makers getting rich ... just look at how the health "industry" has grown in the last 30 years. We need to wake up to what has happened to this country.

Patricia H (440)
Friday June 21, 2013, 2:49 am

Stephen Brian (23)
Friday June 21, 2013, 11:28 am
Obesity certainly is a disease, but the article seems flawed as the author appears to have a massive blindspot. Personal choice is part of the "system" which promotes obesity. Yes, we have modern technology which enables sedentary lives, an abundance of food greater than that for which humans evolved, and other enabling and even some obestiy-encouraging factors. None of them are forcing excess calories into people's mouths. There are usually no external forces forcing people to eat too much, or denying them the ability to reasonably stop. There are some people who do not produce the enzyme that sends the "full" message to the brain, but these are relatively rare. It is a fairly solid guideline that to address an illness, medical or other, one must find where the chains of events leading to health and illness diverge and correct the course there: In a large majority of cases, people have access to all necessary information, and for whatever reasons, they choose to eat too much. That is a bottleneck through which the divergence always passes, and that should be where the change is made. Dr. Roslin recognizes this, but I think he takes the wrong approach: He concentrates entirely on fixing that particular decision through encouragement by doctors, but not on addressing the underlying problem which drives this difference in decision-making.

Dr. Roslin ignores the reason blame exists and the more general need for personal responsibility. When a person or group can reasonably be expected to, without external assistance, prevent a problem from occurring and fails to do so, that person is to blame for the problem. When he says that we should not blame the individual, he effectively says that people cannot reasonably be expected to care for their own lifestyles and healtth, that doctors have to treat adults like children, unable to make decisions for themselves and follow through despite having full information. If that is the case as, sadly, the obestiy-epidemic suggests, then the problem is not in the medical establishment's approach, but in the culture. Doctors may recognize the trouble early and recommend approrpiate lifestyle-changes, but that is compensation for a cultural failing, treatment for a symptom, not a cure for the underlying problem. It's not wrong to do that, but we should not abandon the objective of getting people to take responsibility for themslves, or we may well see badly overburdened dietitians making recommendations which patients ignore, as every other problem arising from the failure of personal responsibility, medical or otherwise, continues.

In the end, though, perhaps he has things right: Fixing the culture would be a very long and omplicated process. It might not be doable before obesity becomes even more incredibly rampant.

Kathleen R (138)
Friday June 21, 2013, 2:54 pm
noted & read

Fred Krohn (34)
Friday June 21, 2013, 3:29 pm
WTF? Obsity is, in most cases, a problem with poor quality food an poor eating and exercise habits, not a 'disease'. Improper gland balance and other metabolic disorders are diseases and are also causes of obesity. This liberal-retard administration and its acts are also a disease; let's end this foolishness!

Jelica R (144)
Friday June 21, 2013, 6:18 pm
Food and pharmaceutical industries are often closely tied. I can not help but notice that companies which make people fat by selling edible items (falsely labelled as "food") also have branches which produce and sell drugs to cure diseases caused by unhealthy dietary habits.

While chronic diseases take decades to evolve, some preschool kids are already obese. If obesity is a disease, kids will be put on drugs much earlier, before the onset of actual symptoms of health problems. Kids are too medicated already and to add another reason for more drugs seems to be exaggerated.

Overall, I am very skeptical of new syndrome flood promoted by Big Agro-Pharma. Conditions and behaviours that we once sanified with discipline, moderation, healthy habits, good upbringing and decency; today are proclaimed to be diseases which must be kept under lifelong control by drugs and medical treatments.

It is important to emphasize that obesity is sometimes caused by malfunction of the endocrine system, which should be treated by specialist in endocrinology. Eating too much junk-food is either an emotional problem, or lack of knowledge or poor discipline. Apart from endocrine and behavioural problems, individual weight is determined by metabolism. When body achieves its balance, it is very hard to change that point and almost impossible to sustain it.

For too long I wanted to be skinny. Although I managed to lose some weight occasionally, as soon as I relaxed every pound came back. I learned that my weight oscillates no more than +/- 5 pounds without me freaking about dieting or indulging in wrong food. So, I tossed that idealized body image away. Instead, I focus on health with abundance of real food and physical activity. I don't care if the media says that I should lose 10 pounds if I'll be miserable trying to keep my weight down. It's my body and my decision.

Shirley S (187)
Friday June 21, 2013, 6:34 pm
A young VETERINARIAN told me years ago while tending to our female cat who had breast cancer that CANCER LOVES & THRIVES IN FAT. That should be enough INCENTIVE for most people to eat & exercise for a healthy body.

Catherine O Neill (73)
Friday June 21, 2013, 7:32 pm
How about Obese people push away the plate & take a walk!!

Twyla Sparks (208)
Friday June 21, 2013, 7:35 pm

reft h (66)
Friday June 21, 2013, 10:34 pm

sylvia jones (0)
Monday June 24, 2013, 4:54 pm
I am a bit of a skeptic that this "treatment" will only be used by people who have the "disease", and not be abused by those who do not have it but are a few pounds overweight. I also feel skeptical that all doctors can be trusted to treat only those with the disease and not be giving prescriptions or treatment to all who ask, just like the over-medication that goes on with prescription drugs. And lastly, I am certain that this will not allow us to get health care more affordable for others who already have other "diseases" Anything that is used as an escape, alcohol, food or drugs, is addiction.

Joanna M (139)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 10:49 am
My main problem with obesity being called a disease is that many people will latch onto that as an excuse to not try to do something about it -- they will shrug and say, "I have a disease! I can't help it." IMO a person may not become stick-thin, but there is definitely something that can be done, to some degree, in just about all cases.
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