Obesity confirmed as chronic disease

The World Obesity Federation has confirmed it supports the definition of obesity as a chronic, relapsing disease.

In a statement published in the leading journal Obesity Reviews prepared by a scientific committee of the organisation, it concluded that obesity fits the epidemiological model of a disease process, except that the toxic or pathological agent is diet-related rather than a microbe.

In the 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, the Federation’s policy experts suggest 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”.

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