Scientists have been arguing recently that obesity should be classified as a disease, because it isn’t always the patient’s fault they’re fat.
They would have labeled it as a chronic condition, similar to epilepsy or asthma, and they say that it could encourage people to come forward and get treatment, rather than rely on diets.
Experts also said that this could be the key to tackling the obesity crisis, and it’s a real crisis because a third of British adults are dangerously overweight.
They also added that the view that obesity is entirely self-inflicted is wrong, and it has a negative impact on overweight people and make it much more difficult for them to get help.
Research has shown that people’s weight is influenced both by their environment, but also genetics.
Professor John Wilding from the University of Liverpool and Vicki Mooney, an executive director of the European Coalition for People living with Obesity and a former plus-size model spelled out the definition of “disease” in the British Medical Journal.
They said that disease is defined as a “disorder of structure or function, especially one that produces specific symptoms, and is not simply a direct result of a physical injury”.
Obesity has been considered a disease by the World Health Organization since 1936, and studies have shown that there’s a 40 to 70% chance of weight to be inherited when twins have been studied.
Weight is influenced by more than 200 gene variations, and most of them are involved in appetite regulation, and the genes that increase weight are unlikely to be found in slim people.
Fat distribution is also influenced by genes, and it contributes to the risk of metabolic complications.
Prof. Wilding and Mooney argued that body weight, fat distribution, and the risk of complications are strongly influenced by biology, and it’s not an individual’s fault if they develop obesity.
According to them, recognizing obesity as a disease would “help reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by many people with obesity”, and it would encourage them to get medical help.
So, instead of discouraging them from seeking treatment, it would give them the permission to do so.
The debate comes after there have been calls from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) for the Government and the NHS to recognize obesity as a disease as soon as possible.
They said that this would improve care, and they argued that obesity isn’t a lifestyle choice caused by individual greed, but a disease caused by health inequalities, genetic influences, and social factors.
What do you think about this issue?