Mr. Friedman / English 102-D3
16 April 2014
Is Obesity a Disease?
Obesity affects millions of the people in the American population. The amount of obese Americans continues to increase, and it is not showing signs of slowing down. “More than half of the adults in America are considered overweight or obese, and about thirty-four percent of the total population in the U.S is either overweight or obese” (Pollack 1). Naturally, being overweight is portrayed as a moral issue. However, there is controversy to whether or not obesity is a disease. Obesity is caused by an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle, but others disagree with this view, claiming that obesity is a disease caused by genetics and other factors. Many people can agree that there comes a point and time where you are just overwhelmed and do not have the time to prepare healthy meals, or exercise. Unfortunately, over a certain period of time neglecting a healthy diet and exercise will begin to show by an increase in fat seen visibly in the waist line, along with a decrease in energy levels and possibly an overall decline of health. Although for some, eating right and exercise does not do the trick. These are people who suffer from diseases causing obesity. Is obesity caused from a person being lazy, and eating an unhealthy diet, or is it all an uncontrollable disease? Well it all depends on the person you are diagnosing.
According to Harvard School of Public Health, “obesity is defined as a person having a body mass index of thirty or higher” (1). So what causes a person to obtain this body mass index? There are many different ways a person can encounter weight problems, but it is a very fine line to why they face obesity. Many claim they suffer from this problem because it is a disease, when in reality there unhealthy lifestyle is the actual reason. A poor diet, eating fatty and greasy foods, along with little to no exercise will have a serious impact on your health and weight. Should poor everyday health habits be considered a disease? “Obesity does not have characteristic signs or symptoms like diseases typically have. The only characteristic sign of obesity is excess fat, which is the definition of obesity itself” (Heshka 1). Calling obesity a disease may just be an excuse for people to live unhealthily. A majority of these people who are overweight have come to rely on fast food restaurants and having others do things for them. The answer to all of their health issues could simply be to obtain a healthy diet and begin to take part in physical activity, which would solve most of their problems. However, among the many lazy, unhealthy people out there, in some cases being obese is uncontrollable. There are many causes of obesity, some of which are environmentally related and others are genetically related. “One may argue that obesity is a disease because, like any other disease, it can interfere with the body not functioning properly. An excess amount of fat tissues will cause the overproduction of bodily molecules and mediators which contribute to abnormal regulation of food consumption and energy levels (“American” 1). Hypothyroidism for example, is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which in turn regulates the metabolism. This is a disease that causes men and woman to become obese. Along with physical diseases, there are certain mental illnesses or traumatic experiences that can cause a person to over-eat, and gain unhealthy weight. “According to Andrew Pollack, “The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a move that could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments” (1). However he then goes on to state, “To some extent, the question of whether obesity is a disease or not is a semantic one, since there is not even a universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes a disease. And the A.M.A.’s decision has no legal authority” (Pollack 1). Obesity can be directly caused due to certain diseases, or genetics, but it varies from person to person. Being overweight can cause one to be very prone to other diseases, such as diabetes, some cancers, and hypertension. So this may be a leading reason to define obesity itself as a disease.
The debate over whether or not obesity is a disease continues to grow as obesity rates and the cost of treatment of obesity related conditions increases in the United States. People who argue that obesity is a disease, say it is a result of genetics and biological factors, or caused by illnesses that cause weight gain. While the opposing side believes obesity is not a disease, because it is that person’s chosen lifestyle, environment, or eating habits, which cause the weight gain. To decide if obesity is a disease, researchers use definitions of disease in general dictionaries because there is not a worldwide accepted definition. Although many believe it is a disease, it has not yet been completely proven. The World Health Organization (WHO) called obesity a "chronic disease" in its 2000 report” (“Preventing” 1). Along with WHO, the IRS stated a policy in 2002 stating that,” obesity is medically accepted to be a disease in its own right. This policy allows Americans to claim tax deductions for doctor prescribed treatments "special food," and weight loss programs for those who are medically diagnosed as obese” (1). But for every believer, there follows a non-believer. “ In the health care bill H.R. 3962 enacted by the house of representatives in 2009, “"being overweight or obese" is not classified as a disease but as a "behavioral risk factor" along with alcohol and drug use, tobacco, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and risky sex” (“Beta” 1). Without a clear decision throughout government and medical associations to whether or not obesity is a disease, groups of people continue to gather for and against classifying obesity as a disease. Men and woman who support this claim say that, it would remove the bad social outlook of people overweight, and allow for the same legal protection as other disease and illnesses through insurance companies and employers who would have to treat it the same as other diseases. While people against it say that it would allow overweight and obese people who are healthy to obtain unnecessary medical benefits and treatments, and it would discriminate toward people who choose a different body style. “Categorizing obesity as a disease would not address the underlying problems causing it, such as poverty, the prevalence of unhealthy processed foods, lack of public policies encouraging exercise, and other environmental factors “(“Is”).
The decision stays upon the person interpreting the question. To each his own, meaning everyone is entitled to their own opinion. As of now, there is no definite answer to the question, should obesity be considered a disease. However, we must focus on the importance of this topic, which is how beneficial it is to live a healthy lifestyle. No matter what medical state the person is in, the state of being healthy, should be a key life goal for everyone. By doing so, one creates a happy, positive, and long energetic lifestyle. Disease or not, together with the support of friends and family, we can conquer the uproar of obesity, to become a stronger, healthier United States of America.
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