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Obesity: Disease or Symptom?

Recently the American Medical Association labeled obesity as a disease, which is rather odd considering that obesity by definition, is the medical condition where there is excess accumulation of body fat, “leading” to reduced life expectancy and increases the likelihood of various diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, certain types of cancer etc.

This move effectively creates sick people where none existed, which takes the said sick people off the hook. Cancer is a disease. Type-1 diabetes is a disease. Plague is a disease and to some people the latest hip hop music emanating from those Disney Teen stars is also a disease, brainwashing all the teens. Those are things that happen to you despite your best efforts and through bad luck, bad genes or bad karma, whatever your belief system might be. Obesity is, with few exceptions, created by the person who is obese, or by his or her surrounding environment. Moreover, obesity in and itself is not even bad. It can create or cause a disease, but is not a sickness itself.

 

So a person with a BMI in the obese category who is otherwise completely healthy and happy is now sick. And the person who has sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure, and poor circulation from a lifetime of doughnuts and pizza is also sick, but it’s not his fault, because he has a disease. Wow! That ought to be a load off a lot of peoples’ minds. Once you allow people to assume the sick role, personal responsibility tends to fade away. Of all organizations, the members of the AMA should know the difference between a symptom and a disease.

It is basic first year medical school stuff, not only that, it’s also the basic difference between cause and effect, any philosophy student can tell you that. A healthy person might be obese by classification. Many football players would fall in this category. A lot of sick IPL stars out there. Sure, Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide, with increasing prevalence in adults and children, and authorities view it as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century, but changing its definition from symptom to disease is not a good solution at all. Or, I guess semantically, obesity could be a cause of disease. Pneumococcus is a cause of pneumonia. Is pneumococcus a disease? No, it’s a bacterium. The thing about causes is, if you can treat the cause, the disease goes away. But then again, this makes it a symptom. As usual, the AMA has added another way for the health care industry to make some more money. Label something a disease and suddenly drug companies, procedures, and specialists spring up out of nowhere ready to reap the benefits of the fact that now people or their insurance is going to pay for all these new so called treatments.

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