Should Obesity Be Classified as a Disease?

After years of being considered a serious public health issue in the United States, obesity was officially classified as a disease last year. While some have applauded the news and consider it a sign that more investment will be made into studying and funding the issue, others think that obesity is a lifestyle issue that can be solved without medical attention.

Do you think obesity should be classified as a disease? Take the poll.

Should Obesity Be Classified as a Disease?

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17 Comments

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Melinda Thomas October 7, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Depending on what side of the fence one sits, there can be pros and cons to this conversation. The discussion is one that should be handled with sensitivity as for many individuals, this is a daily struggle. For years many have struggled with their weight and weight related issues and it's good to see that some attention is being placed on this. It's a disease depending on who's classifying it as such. I refuse to classify it as a disease but others may differ.

Before this debate gets heated, I'd want to share some thing, which I noticed has not been mentioned here. We seem to miss the mark on some of the important factors that contributes to weight gain especially in women. While there is truth to the unhealthy way of eating, there is also the fact that as women age, their metabolism slows down which can be a contributing factor to weight gain. Stress is also another huge contributor as well, genetic factors, the list goes on. By the way, I am overweight, I eat healthy and do belong to a gym, which by the way, I pay every month and don't find the time to go.

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Johanna October 6, 2014 at 6:47 pm

High Fructose Corn Syrup - no doubt a major etiology in the disease of obesity

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Regina Abbott October 6, 2014 at 1:06 pm

This is not a black and white situation. In many cases it is an addiction and should be treated as such and hopefully easier to cure. For others it is a need for proper education, better living circumstances, counseling, family support and some will power.

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Paul Wheeler October 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Obesity is not only a disease... it is the worst and most expensive epidemic ever to hit America. Medicine profits from it and 4 other major addictions... rather than curing and preventing them and that is a disgrace contributing to the high cost of health care... and the unsustainable increase in percentage GNP which threatens our profession and the nation's economy.

Obesity is also a risk to diagnosis: degrading quality of chest x-rays with scatter radiation blurring fine detail and causing hypoinflation lungs... but few radiologists report it.

Those who feel addictions are not diseases should visit accident and autopsy rooms

The main goals of medicine are prevention, cure and relief of pain and suffering. Failure to cure and prevent the major addictions can make our enthralling calling 'inherit the wind'

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Michael October 6, 2014 at 10:17 am

As with most issues in life, there is plenty of gray area. However, it is my belief that this justification is done more and more so that the speaker can hide behind the "I need more information on this topic" defense and never actually make any progress. Yes, there is some degree of genetics at play when dealing with obesity, but the human boy is designed to store fat as we used to be scavengers and surviving through the tough winters was difficult and led to our niche in the ecosystem: being able to OUTLAST our predators and prey. Yes, fat and sugar are nearly ubiquitous in daily food, but there is always a healthy alternative. As to the argument that when overeaters are not eating they feel as if they are literally starving, this may be a stretch, but channel that hunger, that drive, into something more productive. Work out, go running, anything to keep your mind occupied on something other than "I'm hungry, what/where should I eat". It is my fear that people will hide behind this new classification and have an attitude akin to "Its not my fault, I have a disease", wherein they will seek less help and rationalize their obesity.

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Patricia Harper October 6, 2014 at 11:19 am

I tend to disagree....not EVERYBODY fall into the catagory of "Its not my fault" why I'm obesed. I myself have been fighting this battle for MANY years. I HAVE changed my eating habits, exercising everyday and I am STILL considered OBESED....I refuse to have surgery done ( I think it's too risky). I honestly think SOME people have the wrong view of obesity. Fat is not at all easy to get rid of. Yes, some people may use the excuse Its not my fault, but for the most part...I DO think it is a disease and more have to be learned about it. And by the way...I see my doctor on regular basis to help me with this problem. Good luck to me and all the others that is fighting this up hill battle.

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Bonnie C October 7, 2014 at 8:58 am

Eating a "healthier" diet is not always an option (just as organic food is more expensive, in some cases fresh fruits & vegetables are also more expensive). Just getting to the store that sells good produce can be a challenge. Feeding a family of 4 is NOT cheap, and when someone has a minimum-wage job they may not be able to afford healthier alternatives. I remember, when I was much younger, having bean soup & fried (or baked) potatoes for dinner more times than I can count (nowadays, some vegetarians might count this as healthy!). Yes, sugar and food additives are contributing to the obesity epidemic, and a lot of poor food choices are made (daily!), but with healthy food out of reach (financially), we need to do more to get good food choices to people.

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silvia October 6, 2014 at 9:39 am

Nicotine, alcohol, sugar you should know the consequences...

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Bonnie C October 7, 2014 at 9:07 am

Unfortunately, there are too many examples of people who don't seem to suffer the consequences, so it's not a right/wrong issue. (I carry at least 30 extra pounds, and am careful about what I eat, while my sister eats whatever she wants and never seems to gain an ounce!) With examples like that out there, some people think they won't get "addicted" (same is true for drugs) until it's too late.

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MICHAEL October 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

This problem fits in to the mental illness catagory.

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Bonnie C October 7, 2014 at 9:07 am

The same could be said for love & romance.

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Jennifer October 6, 2014 at 8:44 am

Sugar and fat are psychoactive substances. These are cheap commodities and they are everywhere--there are few public places where candy and sugary soda are not present. Food companies are smart--they add sugar to products because they know that it induces craving and habitual use--which is great for their bottom line. Sugar addiction is not a joke; it's real. Research has shown that sugar directly affects dopamine receptors and can carve addictive pathways in the brain with the same efficiency as recreational drugs. People overeat because their brains are hijacked by sugar; without it, they feel like they're literally starving. No addiction is a choice. Few people *want* to be obese, and for most, the condition causes a great deal of pain and suffering. For example, people do not resort to major surgery to correct simple lifestyle choices. Acknowledging obesity as a disease also goes a long way in removing the stigma and shame that complicates recovery.

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C October 6, 2014 at 9:35 am

I completely agree that obesity is the result of yet another addiction (sugar/overeating) but like all addictions, lifestyle choices begin that journey and then it becomes a disease. People are responsible for their own body weight but most people, once overweight, need help getting out of it as with any other addiction. Let's prevent and also treat the problem since it affects both the afflicted and everyone around them.

I have to agree with Bloomberg's controversial decision to limit gigantic drink sizes (as one small step) since some people clearly don't make good decisions on their own. Was C. Everett Koop a prude for putting the ugly truth of tobacco on every pack of cigarettes and restricting advertisements and access? I think not. Sugar is even more addictive than nicotine and just as costly to our health.

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Lisa Otterstrom October 6, 2014 at 6:07 am

sugar addiction, school stress and anxiety due to academic pressure focused on achievement, home environment toxic with academic pressure and conflicts, due to the inappropriate amount of school assignments and homework, ( far from supporting and understanding Erickson's developmental stages,)high student:Teacher ratios, lack of PE classes and outside recess for Elementary and Middle schoolers, an atmosphere of school and cyberspace bullying ignored by Counselors and school personnel since they aren't prepared to deal with behavioral issues, fast food culture availability in our school cafeterias and society and candy rewards in the public school setting are some of the reasons many of our school children become obese.

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Phil October 6, 2014 at 3:27 am

Obesity, like smoking and drinking, carry consequences for making poor choices. It certainly is not a disease of and by itself. Calling any poor choice a disease is ridiculous.

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dave October 6, 2014 at 10:07 am

We all make poor choices from time to time and I share your feelings of classifying a poor choice a "diseaase". That being said the addiction to alcohol (alcoholism) is considered a disease. We need to teach our kids at young age self-control and proper choices. We also need to keep them active and away from living a life that is only filled with media (TV, Computer, and Phone). Sadly I do think this addiction to food has gotten out of control and could be classified as a disease. Without proper nutritional education for families, there will always be a cycle of obesity. Medical intervention (counseling) may be the only thing that can break that cycle.

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Bonnie C October 7, 2014 at 9:14 am

Dave, you hit close to the mark (if not dead center) - Health & fitness centers (gyms) can be expensive, but putting down the video game and walking is FREE! Education is key to knowing how to eat healthy, as well as understanding addictions (& how to deal with addictive disorders). Unfortunately, too many are "hooked" the first time they indulge (alcohol, narcotics, etc.) if their body chemistry has certain criteria (as I understand it).

You have to understand that for some people, over-eating is as much a coping factor as smoking pot is to others (escaping from stress or abuse or just a rotten life). We have to start looking realistically and individually at what causes people to indulge or over-indulge, and stop blaming them for their "weakness" - carrot, not the stick.

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