Diet

Obesity receives official status as a disease

The just-released, and controversial decision, has stirred a huge backlash online. Read on for more commentary.

Obese woman on scale

(Photo by Masterfile)

It seems the American Medical Association (AMA) has unleashed a tidal wave of protest by recently granting obesity official status as a disease. The controversial decision represents the culmination of years of public and private wrangling over definitions.

What constitutes obesity? What defines disease?

According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail even factions within the AMA differed in their conclusions as the House of Delegates overrode the opposition expressed by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health.

The latter takes issue with the accuracy of BMI (body mass index) as an accurate measurement of obesity while the former thinks that the obese suffer from a “multi-metabolic and hormonal disease state.”

About the only thing that almost everyone can agree on is that we are all getting fatter by the minute — WHO, for example, says that international rates of obesity have doubled over 20 years.

Advocates for the disease designation hope that it will inspire doctors to take extra pounds more seriously, and remain optimistic that the stigma that comes with being overweight will gradually recede. Insurance companies may be compelled to pay for treatments related to obesity that currently go uncovered.

Those opposed, contend that obesity is not a disease but a risk factor for disease. They are concerned that people sporting a spare tire will now run the risk of being over-treated as doctors and drug companies seize on the disease designation to kickstart a lucrative cycle of over-medicalization.

More interesting perhaps, than the debate among medical professionals, is the almost universal eruption of derision being expressed on social media sites like Twitter and the comment sections of most media outlets where the outrage and disgust surges.

Civilian commenters aren’t nearly as preoccupied with semantics as their scientific counterparts. ‘Sloth,’ ‘laziness,’ ‘gluttony,’ are among the insults routinely invoked, with ‘pigs at the trough,’ being a particularly cherished description — sensitive folks, these commenters. I wonder why the AMA didn’t factor in their clear medical expertise in their decision.

All the contempt levelled at people struggling with their weight, and by extension their health, kind of makes you wonder if the urge to spread public vitriol on the Net is a disease or merely a symptom of a disease. Rabies, anyone?

Do you think obesity should be designated a disease? Let us know in the comment section below.