Understanding Obesity as a Disease
Obesity has been recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association (AMA). What does this mean to you?
First, if it’s a disease, it is something that affects you but does not define you. People are affected by cancer, and we treat it. People are not cancerous. People are affected by obesity, and we treat it. They are NOT obese – that is NOT what defines them!
Second, if it’s a disease, then it’s chemistry – not a decision. People develop obesity because of body chemistry, not because of a lack of willpower. The old outdated thinking that obesity is a character flaw couldn’t be further from the truth. Modern science supports that there is a complex biochemical process involved with weight regulation, involving multiple organ systems and hormonal signals. The body is very good at defending its fat mass. Trying to treat the disease of obesity by “Eating less” and or “Exercising more,” in a self-directed fashion, is not successful 85-90% of the time.
Third, if it’s a disease then the goal is to treat the disease. Most diseases are not cured – most are treated. This includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and even diabetes. We can manage these diseases to improve lifespan, prevent complications and improve quality of life. Obesity is no different – with proper treatment, a person can liver longer, have fewer other medical problems and enjoy a better quality of life. However, the chronic disease of obesity is not “Cured.”
Forth, if it’s a disease, then we should treat it with evidence-based tools. The best evidence-based treatments for obesity include:
- Weight loss medications (also called anti-obesity medications)
- Healthy nutrition
- Intensive lifestyle intervention (office visits)
- Active lifestyle
- Bariatric surgery
For most people with obesity, we need to utilize multiple tools, not just one tool. Yet in spite of medications being FDA-approved as an effective treatment, less than 2% of people with obesity are treated with medications. This is in contrast to other diseases – 86% of people affected by type 2 diabetes receive medication. Similarly, surgery has been shown to restore lost years of life, yet is used less than 1% of the time it is indicated.
Finally, if it’s a disease, it is worth treating. We now know that obesity can shorten the lifespan by 5-10 years. We know that obesity is associated with 236 other medical problems, 13 of which are types of cancers. Treating obesity seriously can improve your life.
At Clinical Nutrition Center in Greenwood Village, Colorado, we have been treating obesity as a disease for decades. If you have not had your weight properly evaluated by a physician trained in obesity medicine, then you deserve better. Call us at 303-750-9454.