I saw a headline yesterday, but was too self absorbed to follow it, today, someone asked me about that headline, and indeed the AMA has designated obesity as a disease.
So, wanting to track this exciting development down, of course, google is my friend. And not too surprising I found a slew of articles and opinions. Apparently, some people feels that obesity should not be considered a disease and according to them, two reasons not to consider obesity a disease are: 1. It is too expensive to treat and 2. It will put some manufacturers of blatantly unhealthy “foods” under more scrutiny because their products possibly causes the illness of obesity.
I wanted to take the time to answer these two points directly –
1. Obesity is too expensive to treat. I shouldn’t be too shocked by this argument, but frankly, I am. I am horrified by the argument. Inherent in this argument is the assumption that the money spent on saving the lives of obese people is just not worth it. Yes, please sit with that one for a second.
By declaring obesity a disease we are forcing insurance companies to put more resources into alleviating the disease, and we are forcing the hospitals and doctors to treat it more aggressively and earlier in it’s progression. Yes, it might cost a little more money up front, but in the long run we will save money as a progressive a difficult disease hopefully will get alleviated faster. I like this!
Fact is, we are already spending billions on dealing with obesity, but we spend it after the lives of those dealing with obesity has been wrecked by illness, and not just the illness of obesity, but also metabolic disease, heart disease, cancer and several other diseases related to obesity.
2. Manufacturers of blatantly unhealthy foods are afraid their product will be put under further scrutiny. (Ohh God, Yes, Please Let That Happen). One blogger even sneered that now the food manufacturers would have to fear legal wrangling like the tobacco companies saw a couple of decades ago.
Truth is, some “foods” are slow acting, cumulative “poisons”. Why should these companies be allowed to knowingly, (and yes, they know) feed us poisons without fully warning us that this is bad news?
I also saw the argument that obesity is not a disease because some obese people are healthy. This argument was so, so, well, so silly. But let me quantify my answer. It is possible to remain mostly healthy through significant weight gain, in fact I am an example of that. However, the weight gain will still compromise your life in a million little ways. Slowly, things you love to do stop being possible or safe to do due to the weight. Even if your hormonal work up, and health related work ups remain within safe limits, and even if you do not (yet) have obesity related cancer you still can’t run, or jump, or do many other things when you reach a certain size. And at a certain size, even as you might be quite healthy your back, knees and ankles will be compromised. It is a given.
Now, for the argument that some obese people are healthy in other ways, this is mostly correct. Although I would suspect that if the weight keeps coming on then eventually health will be compromised. I also wonder if those so called healthy, but severely obese people have actually had full hormonal work up’s lately. I would recommend it!
In short, to me, declaring obesity a disease is fabulous news. Now, hopefully we can better challenge the stigmas and get more resources to fully study this complex – disease.