Obesity Is Now Considered a Disease…So What Was It Before?

In a surprising and controversial decision, the American Medical Association announced on Tuesday that they are now officially classifying obesity as a "disease" in its own right rather than just a "condition" that is a contributing factor to other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. But not everyone supports the new definition.

One doctor we talked to says the reason for the change is mainly an effort to get treatments covered by insurance companies, and that the ruling does not address the root causes of the obesity problem. He adds that it doesn’t lessen the importance of personal responsibility when it comes to health and that doctors should still be discussing this aspect with patients.

Advocates, however, say the decision will benefit those struggling with unhealthy BMIs.

“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” says Patrice Harris, M.D., a board member of the AMA. “The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity.”  

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The AMA’s decision may also reduce the lazy, unmotivated, or even deluded stigma obese people sometimes experience. This could help both doctors and patients work together to treat it seriously rather than simply shame and blame.

More importantly, this declaration could mean bariatric surgery, weight-loss pills, and even gym memberships may soon be covered by health insurance as ways to treat obesity. Plus, while the AMA's decision has no legal authority, this "official" stamp opens obesity up to increased money and resources dedicated to finding a cure.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine.

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