Obesity – is it a disease or a lifestyle issue?

There has been much debate and controversy lately since the American Medical Association reclassified obesity as a disease, rather than a lifestyle. The obesity disease classification came about in July this year. Obesity is a growing problem worldwide and affects a third of the US nation and is estimated to cost the US healthcare system $190 billion annually and the costs are rising. More and more children and young adults are overweight or obese and the resultant diseases of heart disease, diabetes and cancer are rising in direct proportion.

Clearly, obesity is not something you can catch or contract like a regular disease, but it is the result of a lifestyle imbalance. Obesity certainly gives rise to a range of diseases, just as smoking gives rise to lung cancer and heart disease. But what they both have in common is the lifestyle choice factor. There are genetic factors, but really it is epigenetics rather than straight genetics – in other words it is the result of genes interacting with poor lifestyle choices that ‘switch’ on obesity genes.

Food is one of the few things many people freely choose each day, but some argue that the culture has become so entrenched with marketing of high sugar and junk foods and a focus on media use and lack of exercise that people no longer can ‘choose’ what they consume or how to live their life. Some in the medical profession argue the obesity disease classification will increase funding for research. Others suggest that it will make it easier for paediatricians to approach parents in terms of treating a disease rather than telling them their child eats too much or fails to exercise enough. But is this just avoiding the cold hard facts?

Please watch the interesting video below where a range of experts discuss this widespread social and health problem and look at ways of dealing with it.

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