The American Medical Association this week approved policy that recognizes obesity as a disease, a move the Chicago-based board hopes will advance treatment and prevention.
"Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans," AMA board member Patrice Harris said. "The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity."
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the Obesity Society applauded the designation, saying it will improve people's lives and stem what they call a complex condition with numerous causes.
“A paradigm shift is needed to reverse the course of this epidemic that now afflicts more than 60 million Americans,” AACE president Dr. Jeffrey Mechanick said. “The action by the AMA House of Delegates represents a major step in addressing obesity head-on and helping patients to get appropriate interventions and treatment they need.”
The group said being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer, among other health conditions and diseases. It said U.S. adult obesity costs between $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year and causes an estimated 111,909 to 365,000 deaths each year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 million Americans age 20 and older are obese.
The AACE notes a number of organizations already have made the classification as early as 1998 by the National Institutes of Health.