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Obesity is a condition that is affecting millions of people globally. The high and rising risks of developing the condition are alarming and necessitate a rapid response from the government and the medical community. Medical experts studying obesity conclude that it is caused by the intersection of numerous factors (physical, genetic, and psychological). It is condition where the body stores excess fat instead of disposing or converting it into energy. Therefore, based on this, obesity should be classified as a disease. This consideration will ensure that stigmatization and discrimination is reduced and obese people can access the help they need.
There exist two schools of thought on the issue, some arguing against its recognition and classification as a disease and others supporting the idea. Obesity is a condition where the body develops excessive adipose tissue (excess fat). The primary measurements used by medical professions to define the disease are body height, body weight, and body build. “The body mass index helps to classify obesity into its primary classes; 1 – BMI of 30-34.9, 2 – BMI of 35-39.9, 3 – BMI over 40” (Hoyt, Burnette, & Auster-Gussman, 2014). For the best understanding of why obesity should be classified as a disease, it is essential to understand the definition of a disease. According to the new definition under Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “a disease is any condition of a living animal or plant which impairs its normal functioning and is manifested through distinguishable signs and symptoms” (Disease, n.d.). The primary source of evidence for the claim of obesity as a disease is grounded on the “2013 resolution vote by the AMA (American Medical Association) House of Delegates to define obesity as a disease” (Stoner & Cornwall, 2014).
For obesity to be classified as a disease, the evidence put forward by the AMA stipulates that there is strong evidence from research that suggests genetics are responsible for the appetites of different people. Therefore “compulsive eating, which is seen to either result in the development of obesity or to increase the risk of obesity is at times due to individual genetic makeup” (Funk, Jolles, & Voils, 2016). Further evidence points to differences in base metabolic rates between people and other health factors are seen as significant contributors to the development of the condition. Additionally, the definition of a disease, as pulled from Webster’s dictionary, helps in the classification of obesity as a disease. The condition fulfills all the definitions (from a condition impairing normal body functionality and manifested through distinguishable symptoms).
In addition to this, scholars have employed the scientific approach to assess whether obesity qualifies as a disease. This approach entails “the identification of the condition’s characteristics and examining the data collected to determine whether the condition qualifies as a disease” (TOS Obesity as a Disease Writing Group et al., 2012). Undertaking the scientific approach resulted in mixed reactions due to the different manifestations of obesity. The team of researchers is seen to incorporate the forensic approach to boost the findings of the scientific approach. The forensic approach entails the evaluation of studies and public statements made within the scientific and medical authoritative bodies to evaluate their stance on the issue. TOS Obesity as a Disease Writing Group et al. (2012) found that there was “overwhelming support from major authoritative bodies in support of the classification of obesity as a disease.” Some of these bodies include the “World Health Organization (WHO), AMA (American Medical Association), Obesity Canada, Canadian Medical Association, and the World Obesity Foundation”, to name but a few (Funk et al., 2016). The warrant here is based on both facts and definitions.
Despite this overwhelming support, there are other bodies that have disputed the classification of obesity as a disease. For instance, a school of thought exists among the AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health that argues that the different manifestation of the conditions results in different ways of measuring it. “The variability of the body mass index makes it all the much difficult to diagnose obesity among the different classes of people” (Stoner & Cornwall, 2014). Furthermore, the diagnosis of obesity is not a direct indicator of poor health despite its role as a major risk factor for other conditions like hypertension and diabetes. There are many public health officials that have come forward and rejected the AMA and WHO’s classification of obesity as a disease. They claim that accepting its classification will result in over-reliance on medication to treat BMIs over a certain ration in spite of the person’s overall health. The main argument is that it would increase over-reliance and promote the wastage of resources. Furthermore, some argue that recognizing the condition as a disease would serve to eliminate the issue of personal accountability as anyone who gains a lot of weight will automatically claim obesity. This is seen as counter-productive within the promotion of public health.
There exist other alternative warrants that can lead people to the conclusion that obesity should be classified as a disease. Scholars have conducted numerous interviews with obese people and clinical tests too. There are those with relatively high or low base metabolic rates and tend to store or lose fats on their bodies at different rates. In a study conducted between people of similar height or weight (with a slight deviation), the scientists fed them a similar amount of calories and monitored their BMI to find that some gained a lot of weight. This shows that not everyone who gains weight is obese, and by extension, obesity is a disease.
In the event that the warrant given based on definition and facts is true, but there is a flaw in its relevance, the main point of weakness would be the effects of the disease. When classifying obesity as a disease, there is a consensus that the condition interferes with normal bodily functions. However, this is not always the case since there is evidence of people who are very fit, yet they are also very heavy. For instance, heavyweight bodybuilders may have a BMI above 30, yet they are not obese. “The measurement of obesity within people is one of the main challenges that force people to reject the idea of obesity’s classification as a disease” (Stoner & Cornwall, 2014).
However, in spite of this sentiment, there is a lot more evidence that reinforces the idea of obesity as a disease. Other than the BMI, there are other factors that doctors look at, such as the ability to accomplish physical tasks without unnecessary stress. Those who are obese have mobility challenges, and this augments its diagnosis. For those with a high BMI but are physically fit, they have no issues carrying out normal tasks.
Research shows that scholars such as Katz (2014) perceive obesity not as a disease but as a lifestyle condition. Katz (2014) continues to argue “that obesity is seen to rise in sections of society where there is enough food for all.” The majority of obese people over-indulge in their habits and by doing so, develop the condition. He also contends that people who eat healthily do not become obese. It is due to these arguments that Katz argues obesity is a social condition resulting from society’s over-indulgence.
The paper has different sources and reviewed arguments concerning obesity from different perspectives. Based on the research provides, the classification of obesity as a disease is welcomed. The failure of the body to convert excess fats into energy and instead stores them as fats qualifies obesity as a disease based on its biological (genetic causes). There are millions of people who need assistance with obesity and its recognition as a disease will help them get the help they need.
Disease. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Disease
Funk, L. M., Jolles, S. A., & Voils, C. I. (2016). Obesity as a disease: has the AMA resolution had an impact on how physicians view obesity? Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, 12(7), 1431-1435.
Hoyt, C. L., Burnette, J. L., & Auster-Gussman, L. (2014). “Obesity is a disease” examining the self-regulatory impact of this public-health message. Psychological Science, 25(4), 997-1002.
Katz, D. L. (2014). Perspective: obesity is not a disease. Nature, 508(7496), S57.
Stoner, L., & Cornwall, J. (2014). Did the American Medical Association make the correct decision classifying obesity as a disease?. The Australasian medical journal, 7(11), 462.
TOS Obesity as a Disease Writing Group, Allison, D. B., Downey, M., Atkinson, R. L., Billington, C. J., Bray, G. A., … & Tremblay, A. (2008). Obesity as a disease: a white paper on evidence and arguments commissioned by the Council of the Obesity Society. Obesity, 16(6), 1161-1177.