Defining obesity as a disease: Six reasons for this classification and potential implications for treatment

For more than a decade now, obesity has been defined as a chronic disease by the American Medical Association. Since that time, other leading organizations like the Obesity Medicine Association have also weighed in on this condition as a “chronic, relapsing, multi-factorial” and “neurobehavioral” disease. As the OMA further puts it, increased body fat supports dysfunctionalities and abnormalities in adipose tissue and fat mass. In turn, a variety of negative metabolic, biomechanical, and psychosocial health challenges arise. 

Obesity Treatment in Brooklyn NY Area

How we define and perceive obesity plays an important role in, partly, future treatment options at the office of EndoSlim Clinic NY of Atlantic Gastroenterology in Brooklyn, New York, and elsewhere. 

  • The case for obesity as a disease

To expand upon the OMA’s definition (or Obesity Algorithm®), the organization contends that an obese individual may experience greater fat accumulation without over-consuming and under-exercising. As they put it, impairments with metabolic pathways and the signaling that tells us when we are “full” or satiated contribute to this disease. 

  • The challenge of obesity as a disease

It is not unusual for individuals affected by obesity to experience disappointment – either with their results from weight loss efforts or with their ability to sustain weight loss. University of Michigan researchers reportedly found that 90% of individuals will regain most of the weight that they lost. 

  • Rethinking pathology, too

There are vast and varied causes or pathologies of obesity disease. “Sub-types” range from congenital and stress-induced to menopause-related and those associated with deficiencies in the Melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4-R) responsible for controlling appetite and fullness. There are numerous factors implicated in obesity – from genes, hormones, and metabolism to psychology and neurology.

  • Redefining obesity and changing perceptions 

Characterizing obesity as a disease represents a step toward smashing the stereotype that weight gain is solely caused by poor lifestyle choices or a lack of willpower and discipline. It does not invalidate personal responsibility or the critical role that diet and exercise play. Patients who are diagnosed with a variety of diseases receive recommendations on healthy nutrition and lifestyle modifications that aid in healing. Nutrition and exercise for obese patients remain vitally important, and specialists like our own Dr. Alexander Shapsis partner with patients to ensure they distinguish between healthy and not-so-healthy personal choices when combating this disease. 

  • Treating obesity as a disease 

The implications for treatment now that obesity definitions are getting a much-needed makeover and additional clarity are tremendous; notably, efforts like the AMA designation help to open up doors to:

  • Enhanced opportunities for training in obesity management at medical schools/residency programs
  • Beneficial changes in how both the medical community and the general public view obesity by destigmatizing it as a disease
  • Improvements in how insurance companies cover treatments specific to obesity 
  • Fueling funds for research activities that lead to better treatments and proactive strategies
  • The role of new weight loss medications

At EndoSlim Clinic NY of Atlantic Gastroenterology, we use a variety of therapies and interventions to combat this crippling disease. The rise of new obesity-fighting drugs is helping to reinforce obesity as the disease that it is, and our office in Brooklyn, New York, is happy to discuss potential options for treatment with you. 

To schedule a consultation with our experienced Board-certified gastroenterologist, call 718 521-2840 today.

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