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Obesity: Is It a Disease?

It is without a doubt that Americans are gaining more weight despite more than a third of adult Americans struggling to lose weight. More than thirty billion dollars are spent every year in attempts to lose weight.

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Despite the huge amount of money spent on promotions and weight loss products, Americans are gaining weight today than at any other time. In fact, some statistics report that about half of the American population can be classified as overweight while about a third of the population is obese (Spadano et al Para 1). Obesity among children has also increased and it is estimated that it has doubled as compared to twenty years ago. The unprecedented increase in obesity has raised a national health concern. Government agencies, the medical community, dieticians, and fitness and health practitioners have separately and jointly launched a war against this epidemic (Doucette, p. 43). Obesity is such a major concern that former president Bill Clinton was even encouraged to name it as a national health crisis. Recognizing the risks posed by obesity, World Health Organization declared it as a disease.

Presently a debate over whether obesity should be classified as a disease raises various views from health care and fitness professions. Obesity is associated with various health issues that include diabetes, high blood pressure, increase in levels of cholesterol, and hyperinsulinemia (Spadano et al Para 2). It is also thought to contribute to some forms of cancers. Despite this association, it is not yet clear whether obesity is actually responsible for health concerns. Considering the implication and issues surrounding declaring obesity as a disease, I hold that it is premature to do so.

One of the major issues that should be considered before declaring obesity as a disease is whether it is directly responsible for health concerns associated with it. It is possible that obesity is just an indicator of poor health but not a direct cause. In fact, no research study has been able to conclusively pinpoint obesity as a causal factor of health risks associated with it. Research studies have been able to show that activity level and diet, which contribute to obesity, are also associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer (Farrell et al). There is compelling evidence that indicates that overweight individuals leading an active lifestyle, are more likely to have a reduced risk towards the development of cardiovascular diseases in comparison with their inactive colleagues.

According to Steven Blair, the best indicator of mortality level is cardiovascular fitness other than body mass index or percentage of body fat (Bray Para 4). The author stresses that although an individual could be overweight, nonetheless, if they enjoy a high level of fitness, then they have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, in comparison with their counterparts whose body mass index could be low but with poor cardiovascular levels of fitness. This implies that an individual can be overweight but remain at low mortality risks by maintaining good cardiovascular fitness.

Declaring obesity as a disease has more negative than positive implications. By doing this, unhealthy weight strategies such as diet pills and liposuction used in weight control could be warranted. Doctors and other health care professionals could be justifiable to use these methods without considering their health implications. On the other hand pharmaceutical companies might have a leeway to produce and market unhealthy weight loss pills (Torrey, p. 34). As a disease, treatment remedies would only address short-term issues while ignoring long-term healthy living. In addition, declaring obesity a disease would increase preoccupation with weight while ignoring other important health concerns.

Reference List

  1. Bray, Gregory. Obesity: The Disease. The Journal of the American Medical Association 49(14) 4001-4007, 2006.
  2. Doucette, Thomas. Obesity: a disease or a biological adaption? Obesity Reviews 1(1) 27-35, 2001.
  3. Farrell et al. Influence of Cardiorespiratory fitness levels and other predictors o cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 30(6) 899-905, 1998.
  4. Spadano, Johnston et al. The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity. The Journal of the American Medical Association 282(16). 1999.
  5. Torrey, Tempus. Natural or Herbal Loss Drugs and Supplements Contaminated and Dangerous, 2010.

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