The scientific community is still in disagreement as to whether or not obesity is a disease. While some still consider obesity a self-inflicted disease caused by poor eating habits and lack of exercise, there is growing evidence to support the claim that obesity is a disease.
According to Pi-Sunyer (2002), not only is obesity a disease but within the United States it is considered to be a condition of epidemic proportions. Statistics show that, in our country, over 20% of adults are diagnosed as clinically obese (Pi-Sunyer, 2002). The rationale that obesity is a disease is due to the fact that it causes many different comorbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Has Obseity Reached Epidemic Proportions In Western Countries?
I agree with Conway and Rene (2004) who believe that obesity is not only a condition that has reached epidemic proportions, but it is a disabling, multifaceted disease that causes changes in organ function and can come with a host of comorbidities. The excess body weight puts a strain on the heart, leading to changes in anatomical structure and the function of the organ. Obesity has also repercussions on the immune system (de Heredia et al., 2012), endocrine system (Poddar et al., 2017), and pulmonary system (Dixon & Peters, 2018). These repercussions are caused by both mechanical and functional alteration of tissues and organs.
Data Suggests That Obseity Is Associated With Several Very Serious Health Concerns
Research studies show that obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer in at least 13 different organs (Avgerinos et al., 2019). Obesity is also linked to type-2 diabetes (Maggio & Pi-Sunyer, 2003), arthritis (Moroni et al., 2020). At the same time, a systematic review of scientific data that was published in 2017 shows that weight-loss interventions in the obese adult population decrease all-cause mortality (Ma et al., 2017). The same review shows that weight loss has a positive impact on cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality (Ma et al., 2017).
Lastly, obesity’s status and acceptance as a disease are pivotal in determining its treatment, reimbursement for treatment, and the development of widespread interventions. For these reasons, I believe that obesity should be recognized as a disease.
Avgerinos, K. I., Spyrou, N., Mantzoros, C. S., & Dalamaga, M. (2019). Obesity and cancer risk: Emerging biological mechanisms and perspectives. Metabolism: clinical and experimental, 92, 121–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2018.11.001
Conway, B., & Rene, A. (2004). Obesity as a disease: no lightweight matter. Obesity Reviews, 5(3), 145–151. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789x.2004.00144.x
de Heredia, F. P., Gómez-Martínez, S., & Marcos, A. (2012). Obesity, inflammation and the immune system. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 71(2), 332–338. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665112000092
Dixon, A. E., & Peters, U. (2018). The effect of obesity on lung function. Expert review of respiratory medicine, 12(9), 755–767. https://doi.org/10.1080/17476348.2018.1506331
Ma, C., Avenell, A., Bolland, M., Hudson, J., Stewart, F., Robertson, C., Sharma, P., Fraser, C., & MacLennan, G. (2017). Effects of weight loss interventions for adults who are obese on mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 359, j4849. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4849
Maggio, C. A., & Pi-Sunyer, F. X. (2003). Obesity and type 2 diabetes. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America, 32(4), 805–viii. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0889-8529(03)00071-9
Moroni, L., Farina, N., & Dagna, L. (2020). Obesity and its role in the management of rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. Clinical rheumatology, 39(4), 1039–1047. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-020-04963-2
Pi-Sunyer, F. X. (2002). The obesity epidemic: Pathophysiology and consequences of obesity. Obesity Research, 10(S12), 97S-104S. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2002.202
Poddar, M., Chetty, Y., & Chetty, V. T. (2017). How does obesity affect the endocrine system? A narrative review. Clinical obesity, 7(3), 136–144. https://doi.org/10.1111/cob.12184