Is obesity a disease?


Obesity is not an independent, isolated disease.

TitleIs obesity a disease?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsHeshka S, Allison DB
JournalInternational journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity
Date Published2001 Oct
KeywordsBody Mass Index, Health, Humans, Obesity, Risk Factors, Terminology as Topic

BACKGROUND: There is disagreement about whether obesity should be considered a disease, as can be seen by inconsistent usage and the advocacy of conflicting views in popular and scholarly articles. However, neither writers who refer to obesity as a disease nor those who question whether it is a disease have generally provided a definition of disease and then offered evidence that obesity does or does not fit the definition. METHOD: The characteristics of obesity were examined to determine whether they fit the common and recurring elements of definitions of disease taken from a sample of authoritative English language dictionaries. FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATIONS: Obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI, kg/m(2)) or percentage body fat in excess of some cut-off value, though clearly a threat to health and longevity, lacks a universal concomitant group of symptoms or signs and the impairment of function which characterize disease according to traditional definitions. While it might nevertheless be possible to achieve a social consensus that it is a disease despite its failure to fit traditional models of disease, the merits of such a goal are questionable. Labeling obesity a disease may be expedient but it is not a necessary step in a campaign to combat obesity and it may be interpreted as self-serving advocacy without a sound scientific basis.

Alternate JournalInt. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord.
PubMed ID11673757
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