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Sunday, 12 January 2014 12:50

Obesity is a Disease: Treating the Cause

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Last year the American Medical Association recognized obesity as a disease. Primary care physicians can now take a proactive approach to diabetes, heart disease and cancer by treating the cause. If barriers exist, doctors should refer their patients to medical experts in the field of obesity.

Obesity is the condition of having too much body fat. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, obesity results when someone regularly takes in more calories than needed. "What’s become the typical Western diet—frequent, large meals high in refined grains, red meat, unhealthy fats, and sugary drinks - plays one of the largest roles in obesity." Obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other conditions. Since physical inactivity is often associated with overweight and obesity (couch potato), a physically active lifestyle is recommended to maintain a healthy weight.

The AMA's classification of obesity as a disease will allow primary care physicians to intervene early in patient treatment. According to Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the AMA board, "Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans." A simple BMI (body mass index) measurement may be enough for a doctor to recommend treatment. But some hurdles remain in the identification and treatment of obesity by PCPs, including lack of training, low success rate and even shared stereotypes about obese people.

The AMA has published an excellent "Practical Guide (to the) Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults."

Today, health care practitioners are encouraged to play a greater role in the management of obesity.... Effective management of overweight and obesity can be delivered by a variety of health care professionals with diverse skills working as a team. For example, physician involvement is needed for the initial assessment of risk and the prescription of appropriate treatment programs that may include pharmacotherapy, surgery, and the medical management of the comorbidities of obesity. In addition, physicians can and should engage the assistance of other professionals.

Studies show that medical weight management is the most effective form of treatment. For many doctors, the best action to take may be to refer obese patients to medical weight loss experts. Medical weight loss clinics provide a combination of intensive counseling, pharmacotherapy, support and long-term maintenance of healthy lifestyle. For many patients this can be a life-saving referral!

To learn more about California Medical Weight Management's three-step weight loss program, visit

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