Should Obesity be Classified a Disease?

Posted: June 22, 2013 in blood sugar, bodybuilding, cardio, crossfit, cycling, diet, exercise, fitness, food, gym, Health, meals, metabolism, nutrition, portion control, run, running, vegan, vegetarian, wellness, workout, yoga


Ok. We all know that being obese has certain medical complications (If not check out the above diagram). According to the LAtimes on June 18, 2013 the American Medical Association has declared obesity a disease. The move by the American Medical Assn. board means that one-third of adults (78 million) and 17% of children (12 million) in the U.S. have a medical condition that requires treatment. Hmmmmm.

I really would like to hear your feedback regarding this decision. Do you think obesity should be considered a disease? I thought  obesity just meant being at least 30 pounds overweight. What will happen with health insurance rates if in fact one-third of adults and 17% of children in the U.S will need treatment?

I used to be 30 pounds overweight and so has many other people but I wouldn’t say that I had a disease. I was able to workout and eat right to lose the weight. Since this decision was made many reputable sources have removed their definition of what a disease is.

  1. I agree, I’m torn, because it’s not as if someone with atshma can just change how they live, and the athsma goes away completely, whereas with obesity, that is the case. Maybe now insurance companies will start to offer discoubts to those who don’t suffer, or to people who belong to a gym. I couldn’t say, but it does present interesting obstacles…

  2. yogawithmaheshwari says:

    Calling obesity a disease runs the risk of people no longer feelings accountable to make necessary changes. But then maybe more options for help will be available. I don’t know the benefit if calling it a disease I guess.

  3. chococatania says:

    You might be interested in the book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Foods, Obesity, and Disease by Robert Lustig. In this book, he talks about obesity being a marker rather than a disease itself. The real problem are the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome (stroke, heart attack, cancer, diabetes).

    the real cause of most of these diseases is eating a poor diet. Many people who are susceptible to these diseases often are also obese, but this is not always the case. I’m sure you can think of someone who is thin, eats horribly, and has to take Lipitor.

    Anyway – I agree with you. Obesity isn’t the disease. It is the marker.

    The other issue I have with this is how do they determine what is “overweight” are they going only by weight or by body fat percentage? I mean, some really fit people may be considered “overweight” because they have muscle-which we know weighs more than fat. I hope that they’re not only measuring this by the scale. there are definitely many problems with this because how do you really define obesity? It isn’t clear-cut like chicken pox…

  4. ahellams says:

    This is a really interesting question. As a future health care provider (less than a year left) I really see the importance of classifying obesity as a disease as far having insurance cover care and therefore allowing greater access.
    Unfortunately, health insurance, medicare, etc will not pay for any ‘preventative’ care. So even though allowing people access to medical management of their obesity would decrease their risk of more serious and costly disease like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and various others, they won’t pay for it. If this is classified as a disease itself, it will likely encourage insurance companies to start covering care of obesity to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes something more serious.
    Regardless, hopefully people in this country start waking up soon and taking care of themselves and their bodies!! People don’t have to be running marathons (like us) by any means, but your body works hard for you, you should work hard for it!!

  5. Good post. I’m interested in this as well from a legal perspective, as one of my day job responsibilities involves advising employers on HR/employment issues. We’ve definitely gone down a slippery slope as to definitions of disease, serious health conditions and disabilities over the last few years.

    I can’t help but wonder where this latest determination will lead us. I agree with a previous commenter; often times, obesity is a marker, not the root of the issue.

    Will be following this one pretty closely…

  6. billgncs says:

    unfortunately it is a lifestyle problem.

    • L-Jay Health says:

      Yes! It is. We have to learn how to eat properly and set our lives around that. If we get into the habit of eating healthy then we will eat healthy. If we get into the habit of eating junk then thats all we will eat. I agree, all about lifestyle.

      • billgncs says:

        one thing that can happen is that we anesthetize ourselves with sugar and fat to reduce anxiety. It is a very hard habit to break, and is encouraged by savvy marketers.

      • L-Jay Health says:

        Great point! It is very tough to break the sugar addiction. One almost have to go cold turkey for at least a week or two to break it. Unfortunately it just becomes a vicious cycle and next thing you know we are overweight with major health issues! Thanks so much for the great feedback!

      • billgncs says:

        you have a good blog, keep it up! And congrats on taking control of your life.

      • L-Jay Health says:

        WOW! Thank you very much. So do you!

      • billgncs says:

        reading a book called “Fat Chance” by Robert H. Lustig – might be interesting to you – bw

  7. I really don’t understand why obesity would be classified as a disease. I know first hand, being at one point 80lbs overweight, that it is your diet and your lifestyle that causes you to be overweight and eventually obese (your decisions). I was on the brink of becoming fully obese, but I realized I caused this to happen with 1) my poor diet and 2) living a mainly sedentary lifestyle. It’s been a long journey to lose 100lbs, but I only did it because I changed my lifestyle–meaning eating only whole natural foods, drinking lots of water, and being physically active.

    I understand that there can many reasons why people eventually become obese and overweight, depression was one big reason for me, but knowing what might spur you to eat from you external environment is important so you avoid it. This includes things such as avoiding fast food, not buying junk food in the first place, and asking for help from your friends and family to assist in your effort to lose weight through lifestyle changes.

    Regardless, I think the primary reasons people become overweight and eventually obese is because of their poor lifestyle. It is so much easier for people to go to Burger King and get a whopper than to make a raw salad at their home. People lack discipline and commitment in their lives to be healthy, which is a choice they choose to make. I can go on and on, but obesity is definitely not a disease, but rather an unfortunate choice.

  8. Kimber says:

    I think obesity starts off with routine poor decisions which at that point wouldn’t be classified a disease, however I feel that long term exposure to that unhealthy state not only takes a toll on the physical self but mental too leading to things like depression. It’s at that point when I’d start considering it as a disease.

  9. Dot says:

    “We don’t get fat because we overeat. We overeat because we’re getting fat.” Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat.

    For the last 50 years, we’ve been told it’s all about calories in/calories out and will power. Obesity science has been driven by shrinks (will power) and nutritionists (calories in/out). Prior to the 60s medical doctors use to treat obesity as a disease.

    The nutrition dogma for the last half century is way to simplistic and ignores the complexity of the human body. Science shows that obesity is caused by a hormonal imbalance, with insulin at the center of it. Easy to digest carbs (cereal grains, flour, rice, sugars, starchy veggies) encourage the secretion of insulin. When our insulin levels are high, we gain fat in our fat tissues. When insulin levels fall, our cells release fat from fat tissue and we burn it. This is why many doctors will tell you obesity and diabetes are two sides of the same coin.

    Insulin levels are determined by the carbs we eat. So the low fat foods in our grocery stores actually very carb heavy and help you get fatter. Also these carbs make us hungrier as well as sedentary (so much for will power!).

    Yes, making the right food choice is part of the equation. But that is hard to do when the public health authorities (think Federal Govt and food pyramid) and medical community (think American Heart Assn and their love all things low fat/high carb) that provide health info to the public won’t admit they might be wrong.

    • B_Lazarou says:

      I totally agree with this. We really have to upgrade our food industry standards in this country. Americans don’t stand a chance to make healthy food choices, when 70% of the grocery store is stocked with items featuring the highly subsidized commodity crops in this country: Corn and Soy.

  10. Tim says:

    This is a real problem. I think the point of classifying it as a disease was to give people more treatment options. I fully agree with it but maybe a better idea would be to teach kids about nutrition in school so people know when they become adults.

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