Published on 18 May 2017

Controversial “disease” tag for obesity backed up by reports on the condition.

A recently published report led by the World Obesity Federation has supported the definition of obesity as a “chronic disease”.

Whether or not obesity, which can lead to additional health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, should be defined as a disease has been a source of controversy for many years.

However, a statement published in Obesity Reviews by a scientific committee of the Federation, confirms its support for defining obesity as a chronic, relapsing disease.

It was concluded that the health processes that lead to somebody becoming overweight followed the way a disease develops, except that diet was found to be the cause, rather than a virus or bug.

For their report, a team of American researchers, led by Dr George Bray, looked at how too much food, not enough physical activity and other environmental factors combined with whether the condition ran in people’s families could lead to people becoming obese.

Dr Bray said: “Accepting the concept that obesity is a chronic disease process is important for several reasons. First, it removes the feeling that patients alone are responsible for their excess weight. It also focuses attention on the ways in which this disease process can be tackled. And finally, it shows that if we can successfully treat obesity, many of its associated diseases will be eliminated.”

In an accompanying letter to the editor, Federation experts suggested that declaring obesity to be a disease could benefit people who are obese and wish to have better access to medical advice and support

The letter called for action around social, environmental and other causes that could lead to people putting on too much weight and that obesity was not a “biologically normal or healthy condition”.

They added that recognising obesity as a disease could reduce the stigma on people with the condition, and could lead to benefits in countries where health service costs are funded from insurance schemes that limit payments for non-disease conditions or risk factors.

Read the report in Obesity Reviews
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