Is Obesity a Disease?

1 January 2017

After a long day of work or school, we have the choice to prepare ourselves a healthy meal or to get something quick and easy from the drive-through or a quick microwaveable dinner. Many of us do not have the time, or just simply choose not prepare healthy meals or exercise and it shows in our waistline. From the abundance of fast food chains on every corner to television and video games it is no wonder why we are putting on extra pounds. Obesity is caused by an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle, but others are opposed to this view, claiming that obesity is a disease caused by genetics and other factors.

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Before we can further examine this argument, we need to have a clear definition of obesity, which is “a condition that is characterized by excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body”(Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary online). Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), “for adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese”(CDC).

Because the bmi calculation only uses weight and height, many people who donnot look excessively overweight may still be considered obese due to muscle weight, but reguardless whether one is on the borderline of being obese or if one’s bmi surpasses 40, he or she has a disease according to some views. One may argue that obesity is a disease because, like any other disease, it can interfere with the body not functioning properly. An excess amount of fat tissues will cause the overproduction of bodily molecules and mediators which contribute to abnormal regulation of food consumption and energy levels (American Medical Association).

As being a problem with genetics, Albert J. Stunkard, MD states that studies have proven that inheriting obesity is about the same as inheriting one’s height and concluded that obesity is not from the lack of exercise and eating less, but is in a person’s DNA (Stunkard). Even though obesity is viewed as a disease itself, it can still contribute to other known diseases such as: diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers, which can lead to heart disease, heart failures, and strokes (George Bray, MD). In this case, calling obesity a disease may be appropriate because of the domino effect it has.

Although there has been a rapid increase in obesity in the recent years, it has been stated that obesity was considered a disease as early as the 17th century (David B. Allison, PhD). The impairment of the body functioning normally, the decrease of a person’s life expectancy, the genetic heritability of obesity, and risks to get diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers, are all reasons why some people view obesity as a disease. Opponents of this claim don’t believe these reasons are worthy enough of classifying obesity as a disease.

From general knowledge, we all know diseases are contracted by infectious viruses and other factors and that diseases generally have certain distinct characteristics. For example, aids is a disease, cancer is a disease, and botulism to name a few. The only way to “contract” obesity is to over eat. For obese people, their realistic disease is that everything tastes good. Obesity can be compared to smoking and drinking. Smoking may cause lung cancer and drinking may cause alcoholism, but smoking or drinking in its self is not considered a disease.

Obesity however is indeed a risk factor for “real” diseases like diabetes and heart disease. For those who claim to have become obese from another illness, in most cases, are prescribed medication to keep their weight gain to a minimum. It is simple science; the more you eat, the fatter you will become especially when you have a sedentary life style. For example, many people commute long distances to work and school, sitting in traffic for a long time. Once they reach their office or classroom, they sit some more. Lack of exercise will also contribute to obesity.

More and more people are spending their time sitting behind computers and chatting with friends on the latest social network, playing video games, watching who’s been eliminated from their favorite reality television, or trying to complete everything that has been assigned by their English 103 professor, instead of using that time to go on a jog or brisk walk. Obesity is simply a matter of personal responsibility and not an illness. Every individual can make the decision to live a healthy lifestyle. If obesity is a disease, then diet and exercise should be the cure.

With all of the information presented as to obesity being a disease, I am still opposed that. I understand that it may be harder for people who are genetically prone to becoming overweight to stay fit, but I find it hard to believe that every single obese person has a disease or is blaming it due to genetics. From personal experience, I witnessed a four hundred pound friend lose one hundred pounds last year and is still losing weight. I believe it is a matter of staying active and eating right.

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