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

Early puberty linked with increased risk of obesity for women

March 15, 2018
Girls who start puberty earlier are more likely to be overweight as adults, finds new research from Imperial College London.

New link between gut bacteria and obesity

February 26, 2018
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a new link between gut bacteria and obesity. They found that certain amino acids in the blood are connected to obesity and the composition of the gut microbiome.

Instead of nagging your spouse to lose weight, try going on a diet yourself

February 22, 2018
Tired of nagging your spouse to lose a few pounds? You might get better results by going on a diet yourself.

PFASs, chemicals commonly found in environment, may interfere with body weight regulation

February 13, 2018
A class of chemicals used in many industrial and consumer products was linked with greater weight gain after dieting, particularly among women, according to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The chemicals—perfluoroalkyl ...

Study shows benefits of exercise can outweigh health effects of severe obesity

February 12, 2018
Can you be fit and healthy even if you're overweight? That's the question researchers at York University's Faculty of Health set out to answer in a new study that shows physical activity may be equally and perhaps even more ...

Obesity drives US health care costs up by 29 percent, varies by state

February 7, 2018
The prevalence of obesity has risen dramatically in the U.S., but there has been little information about the economic impact of this trend for individual states.


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.