American Medical Association Votes: Obesity Declared a Disease

On June 18, 2013, physician members of the American Medical Association took aggressive action in the war on obesity, voting to declare the condition as a recognized disease in the United States.  With over 78 million American adults and 12 million American children now suffering from obesity, an official medical condition, the AMA’s vote  was intended to draw attention to the lack of available medical treatment and support available for those considered obese.  In fact, many ADA physicians voted was cast in an effort to pressure private insurers to provide more adequate coverage and funding for treatment and prevention of obesity, which affects nearly 33% of the population of the United States.

Defining Obesity

While obesity is officially defined as having excess amounts of body fat, the condition affects much more than a person’s physical appearance. Obesity, or even being overweight, significantly increases a person’s risk of experiencing health problems in over 100 areas.   According to the Mayo Clinic, in order to be classified as obese, a person must have a Body Mass Index, or BMI, over 30; a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 is considered overweight, while a BMI under 24.9 is considered normal.

Understanding How People Become Obese

At its simplest form, weight gain is a simple formula. When people consume more calories than they expend, they gain weight; when the do the opposite, they lose weight.  While over time, this leads to obesity, the condition is just not that simple.  An increasing amount of research now demonstrates that there are a number of very complex factors that influence people’s weight.  Certainly an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity can result in weight gain and lead to obesity, but so can genetics and certain medications; even  pre-existing health conditions that affect metabolism, hormone balance, and thyroid function can also lead to the condition.   Surprisingly, lack of sleep increases your chance of becoming obese, effecting specific hormones that affect the production of leptin, control appetite, and release insulin.

The Dangers of Obesity

While being overweight or obese is bad, the toll it takes on theentire body is worse – effecting physical, mental, and even emotional health.  Obesity increases the chances of experiencing several very serious, even deadly health problems, According to the Mayo Clinic[1], these include:

  • Heart Disease
  • Hypertension
  • High Cholesterol
  • Metabolic Syndrome (a combination of high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure)
  • Stroke
  • Aneurysm
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Kidney Disease
  • Gout
  • Liver Disease
  • Infertility
  • Joint and Muscle Pain

Treating Obesity

Fortunately, obesity is not a permanent or untreatable condition.  Research has demonstrated a direct correlation between weight loss and improved health, including improved blood pressure, lower cholesterol, improved insulin sensitivity and hormone production  While medical science has develop a host of medications and surgeries to treat obesity and lose fat and weight, lifestyle changes are still the most effective treatment for reversing the unwanted health results associated with obesity, this includes following a healthy diet and effective exercise program that is effective in burning calories and encouraging reasonable weight loss.

Like many behavioral conditions, obesity is a difficult habit to break.  It is important to realize that gaining a significant amount of weight took quite a bit of time, maybe even years; likewise, losing the weight, and keeping it off, will take equally as long.  Many have promoted gimmick diets that are designed to lose weight in record amounts of time, others subscribe to using unsafe or unproven diets, like the HCG diet, to lose weight fast.

The two essential  components of any weight loss plan are diet and exercise; while each weight loss plan is different, most will be based around diet and exercise.  Regardless of the weight loss plan selected, it is very important that it include specific foods and supplements that increase the production of leptin, the body’s number one fat burning hormone.  Nutritionist are also reporting that a diet rich in probiotics has also proven very effective in encouraging safe, effective weight loss.

Obesity does not have to be a life-sentence.  Commitment to a sensible diet designed to burn fat and lose weight and participation in daily physical activity has proven to reduce weight and decrease the risks associated with heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.



[1] “Obesity – MayoClinic.com.” 2005. 26 Jun. 2013 <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obesity/DS00314>

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