American Medical Association calling obesity a disease

June 19, 2013 1:27:01 PM PDT
The nation's largest physicians organization is now calling obesity a disease.

The new policy decision from the American Medical Association aims to change the approach to treatment and get more insurance companies to pay for it.

"Now there can be greater access for care perhaps more compassion better training physicians may screen or act earlier," said Dr. Jeffery Mechanick with Mount Sinai Hospital.

Dr. Mechanick is an Endocrinologist. He helped write the new resolution and says it may also lessen the stigma of obesity.

"Declaring this a disease means it's been "medicalized", there's a medical model for obesity just like there is for diabetes or hypertension," adds Dr. Mechanick.

The hope is that will encourage more people to get treated. But critics say it's hard to even define obesity and medicalizing the condition could lead to over treatment and take the focus away from prevention.

There's concern that calling it a disease may encourage people to rely on surgery and medication instead of lifestyle changes.

But the resolution calls obesity "Multi-metabolic and hormonal disease state" that's not always reversible by lifestyle changes alone. And even if obesity is in part a consequence of lifestyle, the new policy says that still justifies calling it a disease.

The analogy they use is smoking and lung cancer. If you choose to smoke and get lung cancer, that cancer is still considered a disease.

The next step with obesity is to see if calling a disease actually lowers the rates of heart disease and diabetes over time.