What makes something a disease?

Apparently, enough doctors agreeing that it’s a disease.

Last week, the American Medical Association decided that we’d all be better served if obesity were recognized as one.

And one third of the American population was instantly diagnosed.

According to the New York Times, this decision

went against the conclusions of the association’s Council on Science and Public Health, which had studied the issue over the last year. The council said that obesity should not be considered a disease mainly because the measure usually used to define obesity, the body mass index, is simplistic and flawed.

Indeed, it is. Heck, it pegs this guy as severely overweight, tottering on the edge of obesity:


“Given the existing limitations of B.M.I. to diagnose obesity in clinical practice, it is unclear that recognizing obesity as a disease, as opposed to a ‘condition’ or ‘disorder,’ will result in improved health outcomes,” the council wrote.

Obesity might be better viewed as a risk factor for other conditions. Even then, multiple studies have confirmed that a person can indeed be fit and fat at the same time. Other research has suggested that mortality risk is lower for those who are overweight.

Truth is, weight or girth alone tells little about the health of the tissues, organs, cells, internal flora, extracellular matrix – all the components that affect and are affected by our overall state of health. While we might want to be slim for social acceptance or to wear certain fashions or participate in certain activities, weight loss alone doesn’t necessarily improve health.

But, argue fans of the change, this will help doctors take the condition more seriously and lead to preventive care and insurance coverage for it – oh, and also for the two new obesity drugs on the market.

If a person is obese in a way that is contributing to other health problems and a doctor doesn’t take it seriously regardless of whether obesity is a disease or not? That is a problem.

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