Is Obesity Really a Disease?
The controversial debate on whether obesity should be classified as a disease has been around for some time. Recently, the American Medical Association officially classified obesity as a disease. Disease is generally defined as an abnormal condition that results from developmental errors and/or unfavorable environmental factors that cannot be controlled. It can be caused by an external source, such as some sort of pathogen or an internal dysfunction of cells. Obesity is defined as a label for a range of body weight that is considered unhealthy for a given height. It can be caused by an inactive lifestyle, the intake of more calories than needed and consumption of unhealthy foods. There are also other factors that can contribute to obesity such as metabolic conditions, certain medications, lack of access to healthy food options and environmental factors. These factors can make weight-loss (or maintenance of a healthy weight) more difficult but not impossible. I contend that obesity is not a disease because it is the result of a chosen lifestyle, it is completely preventable and avoidable, and can be controlled without medication.
Classifying obesity as a disease could be sending a bad message. In the article “Labeling Obesity as a Disease May Have Psychological Costs” by Crystal L. Hoyt, Hoyt presents a recent study that was published in a psychology journal that explores the psychological effect of American Medical Association’s declaration that “obesity is a disease”. The study consisted of 700 participants that were asked to read health related articles, including an article about the AMA’s declaration, and answer multiple questions. The results of the study suggests that “labeling obesity as a disease could encourage the belief that weight is unchangeable and make attempts at weight management seem pointless, especially among obese individuals — the very people that the public-health messages are targeting.” In other words, Hoyts point is that this type of thinking will lead to more reliance on expensive drugs and surgery and/or cause unhealthy eating choices rather than making healthy lifestyle changes. Hoyt admits that further research is needed for a better understanding, but maintains that the study is a good start in gaining a “greater understanding of how the ‘obesity is a disease’ message influences beliefs about the controllability of weight.” In a similar article “The Ill Effects of obesity ‘disease”” the article insists that overweight people who believe that obesity is a disease are less interested in making healthier food choices and/or exercising.
In the article “Obesity Is Not A Disease”, the author, Geoffrey Kabat compares obesity to smoking. Kabat himself writes:
“Smoking causes a wide range of diseases from lung and other cancers to cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory diseases. Over the past century smoking is estimated to have caused 1.6 million deaths in the United States. However, no one ever proposed labeling smoking a disease.” His point is that obesity, like smoking, is not a disease itself, however, it is the cause of many diseases. In both cases a simple change in life style can drastically reduce your chances of getting the diseases that they cause.
Some would argue that obesity is a result of factors that they cannot control such as genetic history. While I agree that some people are predisposed to genetic issues that can cause slower metabolism or hormonal imbalance, I maintain that genetic history does not mean it is impossible to prevent or avoid obesity. In the article “Mutations In A Metabolism Gene Could Predispose Some People To Severe Obesity” by Anna Almendrala, she writes about a gene mutation that causes a slower metabolic rate and having an abnormally large appetite. According to her article “A person's genes aren't static, and instead can either be switched "on" or "off" depending on how a person lives his or her life.” Basically, this means that those affected need to be more conscious about their decisions on food choices and level of activity.
Some doctors argue that classifying obesity as a disease could open up new opportunities for medical treatments and interventions for obesity. While I agree that obesity should more widely discussed in doctor’s offices, I insist that obesity, unlike disease, can be completely prevented, controlled and cured without medication. Almost every disease is controlled, prevented or cured with medication, and that is usually because diseases are caused by factors that we cannot control. There are many things you can do to avoid obesity such as, regular exercise, eating healthy and moderately and being more aware and educated on what is good for your body and what isn’t.
In conclusion I insist that obesity should not be classified as a disease. Doing so causes people to try unnecessary medication and/or surgical procedures or can cause them to give up trying all together. All of this can be avoided by simple changes in eating habits and maintaining a more active lifestyle.
“Ill Effect of Obesity ‘Disease’.” Advertiser, The (Adelaide) 30 Jan. 2014: 11. Newspaper Source. Web. 7 Apr. 2014
Crystal, Hoyt. “Labeling Obesity As A Disease May Have Psychological Costs.” Association for Psychological Science. Psychologicalscience.org, 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. Kabat, Geoffrey. “Obesity Is Not A Disease.” The Breakthrough Insitute. Thebreakthrough.org, 19 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2014. Almendrala, Anna. “Mutations in A Metabolism Could Predispose Some People To Severe Obesity.” The Huffington Post. Thehuffingtonpost.com, 01 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2014