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Treat Obesity as a Disease

Obesity has recently been declared a disease by the American Medical Association, and there is robust debate whether that classification is accurate. Obesity can be defined as having a BMI over 30 (Wright & Arrone, 2012). Obesity meets some definitions of a disease as it is a disorder in that inhibits a person’s cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, metabolic, endocrine, and skeletomuscular system, that is characterized by disordered energy intake/output, and increases incidences of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (Sisson, 2013). However, obesity does not meet some standards of disease as being treatable through medical intervention and being deadly. I think obesity should be treated as a disease, with some modifications of the definition of obesity.

Obesity is a very complex condition that is a result of many factors. Wright and Arrone (2012) highlight contributing factors such as energy intake being greater than output, the availability of cheap unhealthy food, chemical addiction to food, disruptions in the endocrine system, disordered sleeping, drug use, living with other obese individuals, and many others. Obesity results from a combination of a poor food environment, lack of physical activity, socioeconomic factors, and genetics. Obesity changes how the central nervous system interacts with metabolism. How appetite is modulated by ghrelin, leptin, and insulin is negatively altered by being obese (Hurt, Varayil, Mundi, Martindale, & Ebbert, 2014) By treating obesity as a disease, it should get more serious attention. Traditional views of weight gain and obesity as a moral failing, obviously has not worked as 2/3 of Americans are overweight and 1/3 are obese (Pollack, 2013). More than nutritional guidance and increased physical activity are needed to combat the problem.

Reducing obesity will need a multimodal approach. By treating obesity as a disease physician should learn more about the problem and how to treat it. Currently, medical training related to treating obesity and nutrition is quite limited (Hurt et al., 2014). Improving education among up and coming doctors will lead to better treatment outcomes. Also, insurance will be more likely to cover physical activity, like gym memberships and personal trainers, and nutritional counseling. A more creative option affecting public policy would be government subsidies for buying healthier food options, taxes on high caloric food, subsidized gym memberships, and decreased physician costs (Barth & O’kane, 2016). These options, when used in conjunction, might decrease obesity rates.

Not treating obesity seriously has allowed the problem to grow to epidemic proportions. Treating obesity as a disease will allow it to be treated more seriously, allow more creative treatment options to be developed, and reduce stigma. On a side note the definition of obese should be changed as BMI does not accurately describe body composition or physical wellbeing. A person can be technically obese and be in excellent health. Body fat percentages should be used based on age and gender would potentially be more accurate in labeling someone as obese.

References

Barth, J. H., & O'Kane, M. (2016). Obesity services: How best to develop a coherent way forward. Clinical Endocrinology, 84(3), 321-324.

Hurt, R. T., Varayil, J. E., Mundi, M. S., Martindale, R. G., & Ebbert, J. O. (2014). Designation of obesity as a disease: Lessons learned from alcohol and tobacco. Current Gastroenterology Reports, 16(11), 415-423.

Pollack, A. (2013, June 18). A.M.A recognizes obesity as a disease. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/business/ama-recognizes-obesity-as-a-disease.html?_r=1&

Sisson, M. (2013, June 26). Is obesity a disease? Retrieved from https://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-obesity-a-disease/

Wright, S. M., & Arrone, L. J. (2012). Causes of obesity. Abdominal Imaging, 37, 730-732.