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Tuesday, 04 March 2014 15:00

Obesity as a Disease - Focus on Prevention

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On Feb 21, the New York Times ran an op-ed article entitled, "Should Obesity Be a Disease?" The article, by two professors at the University of Richmond, argues that classifying obesity as a disease has "important psychological costs."

Professors Crystal Hoyt and Jeni Burnette argue that classifying obesity as a disease leads to "increased body satisfaction" and discourages obese people from trying to lose weight. The gist of Hoyt and Burnette's claim is that, upon realizing they have a disease, obese people will simply give up hope of losing weight, or use the designation of "disease" as an excuse to continue overeating.

Obesity is a disease that may have a number of causal factors. We don't fully understand obesity, but we know it contributes and leads to other serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Today the medical community tends to focus on treating visible symptoms, such as high blood cholesterol, without addressing the possible underlying causes. In other words, wait until there's a problem, then treat the problem.

By classifying obesity as a disease, the medical community can take a proactive, homeopathic approach. When an obese patient comes to a doctor's office, the doctor can (and should) prescribe weight loss treatment instead of, for example, only focusing on cholesterol levels. This is a fundamental change that focuses on prevention, before there is a need for a cure.

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