Obesity has been recently recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association. Obesity and health problems go hand in hand and as such they appear to be a number of different health risks that are associated with being obese. A typical clinical definition of obesity does not exist but has been defined by different groups in a number of different ways. In this article, we should take a brief look at what the clinical definition of obesity is and what the associated health problems are.
What is the definition of obesity?
The word ‘obesity’ is a term that is widely utilised to describe an individual who has a weight over and above what is considered to be normal for that age and sex. There are different ways of classifying obesity but primarily it is done so through a measure known as the ‘body mass index’, also called ‘BMI’. The BMI is measured using the weight and height of the individual and is charted against what is considered to be normal as per the laid out standards.
In Caucasian populations, a BMI that lies between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered to be a healthy body weight. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a BMI of over 25 is classed as overweight and over 30 is classed as obese. Individuals with a BMI over 40 are classed as being morbidly obese.
Obesity and health problems
The health risks of obesity are many. A variety of symptoms can occur from obesity affecting different vital organs. For example, obese individuals are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes. Joint pains such as knee problems, hip problems and back problems are extremely common. Obese individuals can develop skin problems such as acne as well.
Morbid obesity is associated with more problems than just what obese people experience. Other than cardiovascular disease, the inability to mobilise because of the body weight can result in further increase in body weight, ultimately making the individual completely sedentary and dependent on others. Type II diabetes is a well-recognised clinical condition that accompanies obesity. In women, breast cancer incidence can increase in obese patients.
Due to an alteration in the quality of life of obese individuals, they could develop psychological problems such as high stress levels and depression. Some clinical reports have suggested an increased incidence of bowel cancer as well. Carrying a great deal of weight around can cause a degree of breathlessness as well. Clinical conditions such as excessive snoring and sleep apnoea are well recognized as health problems associated with obesity.
Is obesity a disease?
A recent panel of the American Medical Association recognised obesity as a disease, which may not sound like much to the lay public, but actually has a string of advantages. Firstly, recognising obesity as a disease now means that a great deal of focus will now be paid towards managing the condition. Higher scientific research grants may now be offered looking at finding a complete cure. Given the high incidence of diseases from obesity such as diabetes mellitus, this would translate into increased research in the etiology and connection between obesity and these conditions.
But the question remains – is obesity a disease? There are times when obesity does result from negligent food habits and an unhealthy lifestyle. People who are fully aware of the harms of consuming junk foods and foods high in saturated fats continue to do so, and this over time results in one becoming obese. Calling such individuals as suffering from a disease would be ethically and morally wrong. On the other hand, those with genetic obesity, calling obesity a disease can have certain advantages.
The obesity definition is not well carved out but is dependent on an individual’s height and weight and their calculated BMI. Unfortunately, obesity is associated with a number of different health risks and steps must be taken to keep the body weight under control.