33 percent of Americans are obese ( AMA’s Chicago meeting on June 18th,2013)
The American Medical Association has decided to take the bold step of declaring obesity a disease, a move that could compel more doctors to suggest treatment for the tens millions of Americans considered obese.
The declaration comes as a bit of surprise, since a select advisory committee that studied the matter over the last year had recommended the AMA not do so.
The advisory committee said it worried that calling obesity a disease would define one-third of Americans as being ill and might compel doctors to push aggressive treatments, such as surgery and medications, rather than counselling lifestyle changes.
“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately 1 in 3 Americans,” AMA board member Dr. Patrice Harris said in a statement.But at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago, the group’s 524-member House of Delegates overrode that recommendation after deciding the declaration would motivate doctors to take obesity seriously, and to see discussing weight with their patients as a professional obligation.
Studies have shown that at least half of obese people have never been told by a doctor they need to lose weight. Other research has shown parents often vastly underestimate their own children’s weight.
The question of whether obesity is a disease is somewhat an academic argument, since the decision carries no legal weight. But for many, the hope is that the declaration will have an effect similar to when the U.S. Surgeon-General declared that smoking caused cancer.
Supporters argued that obesity fits the criteria of a disease, since it impairs body function and can lead to serious conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Detractors argued that obesity was more of a risk factor for other conditions, rather than a disease on its own.
In the end, the delegates voted in favour of a resolution declaring obesity as a “multimetabolic and hormonal disease” state.
“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,” the resolution said.
Groups sponsoring the resolution included, the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Surgeons and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, among others.