Experts argue that obesity is a chronic, relapsing, progressive disease

May 10, 2017, Wiley
This is an image of a weight scale. Credit: CDC/Debora Cartagena

In a new article, World Obesity Federation experts consider the argument for obesity as a chronic relapsing disease process. They note that obesity fits the epidemiological model of a disease process except that the toxic or pathological agent is food rather than a microbe.

The question of whether obesity should be called a 'disease' has sparked controversy for most of the last century. In their Obesity Reviews position statement, Dr. George Bray and his colleagues examine how an abundance of food, low physical activity, and several other environmental factors interact with genetic susceptibility. They draw parallels to chronic diseases, noting that the magnitude of obesity and its adverse effects in individuals may relate to the virulence or toxicity of the environment and its interaction with the host.

"Accepting the concept that obesity is a chronic disease process is important for several reasons," said Dr. Bray. "First, it removes the feeling that patients alone are responsible for their excess weight. It also focuses attention on the ways in which this disease process can be tackled. And finally, it shows that if we can successfully treat obesity, many of its associated diseases will be eliminated."

In an accompanying letter to the editor, experts agree that declaring obesity to be a disease could benefit those people who are suffering with obesity and wish to have access to medical advice and support, "whilst also strengthening the call for dealing with the social determinants, obesogenic environments and systemic causes of individual weight gain." They also note that recognizing as a disease may reduce individuals' internalized stigma, change the public discourse about blame for the condition, and have benefits in countries where health service costs are funded from insurance schemes that limit payments for non- conditions or risk factors.

Explore further: Central obesity ups mortality across BMI range

More information: G.A. Bray et al, Obesity: a chronic relapsing progressive disease process. A position statement of the World Obesity Federation, Obesity Reviews (2017). DOI: 10.1111/obr.12551

Related Stories

Central obesity ups mortality across BMI range

April 25, 2017
(HealthDay)—Central obesity is associated with increased risk of mortality even in normal-weight individuals, according to a study published online April 24 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Physical activity helps to counteract weight gain from obesity-causing gene variant

April 27, 2017
Physical activity can reduce the weight-gaining effects of the genetic variant that carries the greatest risk of obesity, report Mariaelisa Graff of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tuomas Kilpeläinen of ...

Considerable absenteeism costs for chronic disease, risk factors

October 19, 2016
(HealthDay)—Considerable costs are associated with absenteeism related to chronic diseases and health risk factors, according to a study published in the Oct. 6 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ...

Research explores social determinants of health disparities for obesity and related chronic diseases

January 12, 2017
The Mid-South Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center for Health Disparities Research has adopted a novel conceptual framework that considers the social context in which people live in order to understand the pathways and ...

Study finds support for obesity designation as disease

May 14, 2015
In the first assessment of public opinion since obesity was formally classified as a disease, a new study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut has found that a majority of Americans ...

Lessons learned from 'The Biggest Loser' study

August 1, 2016
Much media attention was given to a recent Obesity study that found that metabolism remained suppressed even when participants in "The Biggest Loser" television series regained much of the weight they lost while dieting. ...

Recommended for you

Young children's oral bacteria may predict obesity

September 19, 2018
Weight gain trajectories in early childhood are related to the composition of oral bacteria of two-year-old children, suggesting that this understudied aspect of a child's microbiota—the collection of microorganisms, including ...

Rethinking an inflammatory receptor's obesity connection

September 12, 2018
Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is a protein that plays a vital role in the body's immune response by sensing the presence of infection. It has long been thought to also sense particular types of fats, which suggested a mechanism ...

Rising European life expectancy undermined by obesity: WHO

September 12, 2018
Life expectancy in Europe continues to increase but obesity and the growing proportion of people who are overweight risks reversing this trend, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday.

Brief sleep intervention works long-term to prevent child obesity

September 6, 2018
When it comes to obesity prevention, sleep is not usually something that springs to mind, but a University of Otago research team has found we should not underestimate its importance.

Researchers develop more accurate measure of body fat

August 27, 2018
Cedars-Sinai investigators have developed a simpler and more accurate method of estimating body fat than the widely used body mass index, or BMI, with the goal of better understanding obesity.

Study suggests need to include overweight subjects in metabolic research

August 23, 2018
Children's Hospital Los Angeles investigators have demonstrated the need to include a growing constituency of obese and overweight children and adults in clinical research, with their study of a key marker for metabolism ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.