Last Updated 22 Mar 2021

Is Obesity a Disease?

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Is obesity a disease? Obesity is defined as "a condition that is characterized by excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body. A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more above normal weight. Obesity puts people at risk for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and some cancers. It not only causes structural changes in a person's fat tissue, but it also controls how the body handles lipids, insulin and blood sugar. This condition presents itself when a person consumes more calories than he or she burns.

For many people this is caused by eating too much and exercising too little, but there are other factors that also play a role such as age, gender, genetics, environmental factors, physical activity, physiological factors, illnesses, and medications . There are a few exceptions, mostly extreme cases of a health problem where no matter what people do or eat; they become obese due to a single genetic mutation. Many believe obesity is a preventable risk factor for other diseases, like smoking is a preventable risk factor for lung cancer or like drinking is a preventable risk factor for alcoholism.

The question raised today is; is obesity a disease or a lifestyle? A Survey conducted by the Gallup Poll from July 8-14, 2004 showed that 21% of Americans believe "obesity is a disease," while 75% viewed obesity as a "problem of bad eating and bad lifestyle habits. " Many believe obesity is a disease, cannot be prevented, and leads to other deadly health issues. On the contrary there are those who argue that obesity is a personal responsibility and can be controlled.

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Classifying obesity as a disease would scare overweight or obese people, who are healthy into seeking unnecessary medical treatments, and cause public funds to treat a preventable condition. Obesity is the result of sedentary lifestyles and not illness. For example, compared to 40 years ago, people today spend more time commuting, sitting in front of a computer, watching television, playing video games, exercising less and less every day. Obesity is something that happens gradually, and not overnight. The easy way out and to avoid confronting the issue at hand is to pin it as a disease, and something that cannot be prevented.

Research says that categorizing obesity as a disease would not address the underlying problems causing it, such as poverty, the lack of unhealthy processed foods, lack of public policies encouraging exercise, and other environmental factors. Racial and ethnic minority adults, and those with less education or who make less money, continue to have the highest overall obesity rates. According to scholarly journal Considerable evidence suggests that the eating behaviors of children and adolescents are shaped by parental feeding behavior.

The way our parents and other individuals in our household eats affects us one way or another for the better or worse. One of the pathways by which parents shape children’s habits is by serving as role models, and children mimic what they see even when it comes down to food ;what they like and dislike . But as children get older in age, it is their own responsibility to maintain their health. Those on the other side of the fence stress that obesity is a disease because it is a result of genetics and biological factors, or illnesses that cause weight gain.

These diseases include hypothyroidism, Cushing's syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome. Despite the lack of acceptance, several government and international agencies have claimed obesity as a disease. The Internal Revenue Service announced a policy in 2002 stating that "obesity is medically accepted to be a disease in its own right. " This (IRS) policy allows Americans to claim tax deductions for doctor prescribed treatments, "special food," and weight loss programs for those who are medically diagnosed as obese, but The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not classified obesity as a disease.

Stress that declaring obesity is a disease would remove the social stigma associated with obesity; afford it the same legal protections as other illnesses, and force medical professionals, insurers, and employers to treat it with the same degree of concern given other diseases. I believe obesity is not a disease, but a condition that is based upon single individuals, their chosen lifestyle, environment and eating habits. As stated before, obesity does not happen overnight, and in many cases can be prevented.In my opinion obesity is caused by laziness, and a non-effort to care for oneself. This is an addictive condition just as cocaine, alcohol, and other drugs, and merely caused by eating beyond ones appetite. Whether obesity is a disease is an issue which America feels very strongly about, and will continue to be the topic of conversation until the issue is resolved.


  1. English M. Is obesity a disease. Discovery News [Magazine]. 2012. [Cited October 17, 2011]. http://news. discovery. com
  2. Is obesity a disease. ProCon [Internet]. 2012. Cited March 24,2011]. http://procon. com. 2012.
  3. Golan M, Crow S. Parents Are Key Players in the Prevention and Treatment of Weight-related Problems. Nutrition Reviews; Jan2004, Vol. 62 Issue 1, p39-50, 12p.

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