Is Obesity a Disease?

September 26th, 2009 by LHill Leave a reply »

It is a sign of our confusion about obesity that the issue of whether obesity is a disease or not is hotly debated. I have written extensively that it is a disease and helped persuade some federal agencies that it should be described as a disease. I think the reason to consider obesity is a disease is straightforward – take any definition of ‘disease’ and see if it fits. Usually, three things are necessary – an interruption, cessation or alteration in the body having characteristic signs or symptoms resulting from known or unknown causes resulting in a deviation from normal structure or function. Resistance to talking about obesity as a disease seems to rely on an assumption that excess weight is a matter of choice and easily resolved. Therefore, if it is something under a person’s control, it cannot be a disease. When asked whether this means that skin cancer, which is preventable by taking protective measures should not be considered a disease or whether HIV/AIDs which is also highly preventable should not be considered a disease, the response is usually some mumbling response, “Well, that’s different.” Fortunately, it appears that many people in society are coming to regard obesity as a disease which hopefully means a better approach to both the health effects and stigmatization. MD

Results of Expert Meetings: Obesity and Cardiovasc…[Am Heart J. 2001] – PubMed Result

Medicare Changes Policy on Obesity (

The Campaign To Make Obesity A ‘Disease’

Asking if Obesity Is a Disease or Just a Symptom – New York Times – Designate obesity as disease