FoodFacts.com listened intently, along with the rest of the country today, as we learned that the American Medical Association formally voted to classify obesity a disease requiring a range of medical interventions in the United States.
More than 35 percent of U.S. adults and 17 percent of children and teenagers are now recognized as having the disease of obesity. While the move is certainly stirring up some controversy for a variety of reasons, the intent of the AMA seems to be directed at giving doctors a broader range of options for treatment. Without this status, doctors treating obesity must instead approach it as a lifestyle condition requiring modification. Because the AMA is committed to improving outcomes, and because obesity is so commonly linked to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, this new classification is something they feel will help to arm the medical community more effectively as they tackle the epidemic.
Obesity is technically defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Normal weight is defined by a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9. More than one in three adults in our country carries a BMI over 30.
As the FoodFacts.com community is aware, there are growing bodies of research that link serious disease to this all-too-common condition. Increased risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, liver disease, sleep apnea, breathing problems, osteoarthritis, infertility and multiple types of cancer including breast, pancreas, kidney, and colon, have all been associated with the expanding obesity problem.
It is also hoped that the new classification of obesity as a disease can also help more Americans realize that unhealthy food choices combined with lack of exercise is a real threat to their health. A recent survey showed that although 70% of the population understands that obesity is linked with heart disease and diabetes, only 7 percent realized that obesity is associated with cancer. Only another 5 percent knew that both asthma and sleep apnea could be helped with weight reduction.
Classifying obesity as an actual disease may also impact new laws and insurance practices. Lap-band procedures and gastric bypass surgeries aren’t always covered by insurers. The reclassification may help to change that. In addition, patients may become more comfortable with their doctor prescribing treatment for the disease of obesity. As an actual disease treatment may not be considered offensive or embarrassing, leaving the patient feeling poorly about unhealthy lifestyle choices.
While the new classification seems to be stirring up many emotions across the internet, FoodFacts.com can’t help but feel encouraged that this major move by the AMA can help doctors treat obesity before its effects set in. It could be especially beneficial in combating childhood obesity and giving the youngest in our population a better opportunity to live a life free from the multitude of problems linked with the epidemic. This may prove to be an incredibly valuable step towards eradicating a problem plaguing not only the United States, but the population of the rest of the word as well.