Obesity declared a disease by doctors
Experts say a decision this week by the American Medical Association to officially recognize obesity as a disease could go a long way in changing social stigmas about obesity and helping millions of Americans live longer and healthier lives.
So what does the vote mean?
Technically, the AMA’s decision has no legal authority, but some obesity advocates say that having the country’s largest physician group make such a bold declaration will definitely focus more attention on obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese. The AMA’s decision would imply that these Americans are ill, which some proponents argue could lead to more reliance on surgery and expensive drugs rather than lifestyle changes.
The idea of whether obesity should actually be classified as a disease has long been part of contentious debate.
In fact, the AMA’s own Council on Science and Public Health recommended against calling obesity a disease. The council said it felt obesity shouldn’t be considered a disease because the measure generally used to define it, the body mass index (BMI), is flawed.
But delegates at the association’s annual meeting held in Chicago overrode that advice and voted—instead— in favor of resolutions put forth by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American College of Cardiology and other organizations.
In a statement, Dr. Patrice Harris, an AMA board member, said, “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans.”
Harris suggests the new definition will not only help fight against obesity, but would also help combat heart disease and Type 2 diabetes as well, which are both linked to obesity.
Dr. Lawrence Kosinski, gastroenterologist at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., supports the vote and hopes the news will encourage people who are dealing with obesity on their own to seek out appropriate care.
“The government has taken critical actions to cover obesity treatments for Medicare patients with a BMI greater than 30,” said Dr. Kosinski. “The AMA’s vote seems to support these actions and will hopefully encourage the commercial insurance industry to follow suit.”
According to the CDC, the range for a normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, while 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and 30.0 and higher is defined as obese.
Kosinski also added that he hopes the decision will motivate more doctors to play a bigger role in tackling this complex issue.
“Doctors should be taking the lead to educate patients about good nutrition to prevent obesity and its related diseases,” he said. “I hope the AMA’s position will increase the nutritional IQ among physicians and lead to more tools that they can use to help their patients.”
Latest Obesity Drugs
Last year, two new obesity drugs hit the market including Qsymia from Vivus, and Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai’s, Belviq.
So far sales of Qsymia have proved dismal for a number of reasons, including distribution restrictions and poor reimbursement. And analysts say it’s too soon to tell if Belviq will be successful or fizzle because the drug only went on sale about a week ago.
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