In a recent article in the Lancet, it was pointed out that Portugal has officially recognized Obesity as a chronic disease since 2004, but remains the only country in Europe to do so.
Although the UK as a whole does not recognize obesity as a disease, the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network did in 2010. The American Medical Association officially recognized Obesity as a disease and 2013 and the Canadian Medical Association followed suit in 2015. In Canada, many Canadians who need obesity treatment must still pay for care because federal and local governments have not officially recognized the position of the Canadian Medical Association which has also recognized Obesity as a disease.
Recognizing Obesity as a treatable disease rather than a failure of will or a character flaw allows attention to be directed at correcting the chemical imbalance, a series of morbidies resultant from an accumulation of “belly fat, ” the visceral fat buried deep within the abdomen – sleep apnea, GERD, hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes mellitus, and an increased propensity for autoimmune diseases and cancers. This visceral fat acts as an evil gland pouring its noxious cellular hormones directly into the liver and hijacking the body’s metabolism.
Recognizing Obesity as a disease clearly has economic consequences for national health care policies and insurance premiums in general. But are not the impairments of GDP resulting from an impaired labor force and societal costs of ignoring the problem likely to be far greater if the disease is not recognized and treated early? For example, the resultant Type 2 Diabetes is the most frequent cause of kidney failure requiring dialysis, the indication for over half of non-traumatic amputations, and a frequent cause of blindness. These complications alone have devastating financial and social consequences.
Of course, Obesity must be recognized as a disease by all nations and attention directed to its early recognition and treatment. This writer always capitalizes the “O” in Obesity to call attention to that fact and indicate it as such.