Do You Consider Obesity a Disease?

February 09, 2017

More than a third of adults in the United States are now classified as obese, with some ethic groups approaching a 50% obesity rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's why more experts than ever are urging physicians to approach obesity as a disease that should be taken seriously.

In a recent Medscape video commentary, Caroline M. Apovian, MD, professor of medicine and pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, Massachusetts, pointed out that most people, doctors included, consider obesity to be a personal failing rather than a medical condition.

"For the most part, people still think that obesity is a matter of willpower — that it's just a matter of eating less and exercising more," Dr Apovian said. "Even though the American Medical Association proclaimed obesity to be a disease in 2013, there are still some things that need to be done for us to truly embrace obesity as a disease."

Beyond lifestyle changes to promote weight loss and prevent further weight gain, Dr Apovian said clinicians should consider prescribing bariatric surgery or one of the six US Food and Drug Administration–approved medications for obesity treatment. Currently, physicians recommend surgery for eligible patients less than 1% of the time, she noted. And less than 2% of patients in the United States eligible for an antiobesity medication get one, she added.

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