Dr. Matthew Metz Talks About The AMA Classifying Obesity As A Disease

June 20, 2013

AMA Classifying Obesity as a Disease

The American Medical Association (AMA) has officially defined obesity as a disease.  While pundits and talk show hosts are certain to make light of the AMA’s classification, the fact remains that 30% of Americans are obese.  In a study released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2012, projections state, “If rates continue to increase at the current pace, adult obesity rates could exceed 60% in 13 states, and all states could have rates above 44% by 2030.”

Such a serious prediction means a profound increase in diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and heart disease, with associated morbidity and early mortality, can be expected for America in the coming years.  According to the CDC, between 112,000 and 365,000 deaths occur annually in the United States as a result of complications of obesity at present.  With a predicted doubling of the obesity rate for the next 15 years, we can expect the death rate to rise commensurately.

One reason the AMA has labeled obesity as a disease is to, “Reduce the stigma of obesity that stems from the widespread perception that it is simply a result of eating too much or exercising too little.”  Obesity is a complex, multi-dimensional problem that is influenced by genetic, environmental, socio-economic, and behavioral  factors.  With recent data showing that the intrauterine environment in an obese mother can predict whether a child will grow up to be obese, we are seeing a clear picture of why each generation is heavier than its predecessor.  In other words, the heavier mom is during pregnancy, the more likely her child will grow up obese, thereby perpetuating the cycle of weight gain over time.

While we clearly have a case for intervention from a public health perspective, the finances associated with obesity should be a motivating factor for us as well. In 2012, Reuters reported that medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $190 billion per year.  That makes obesity more expensive to treat than smoking!  But the impact is much farther reaching than even our health care dollars.  According to one study, cars (more fuel efficient now than ever before) are burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline more per year than if passengers weighed what they did in 1960.

So take care, late-night talk show hosts, when you mock this very serious disease process.  If we can get together as a country, we have a chance to check this epidemic, save hundreds of thousands of lives, increase quality of life, and save hundreds of billions of dollars.



Matthew Metz, MD, FACS is a Board-Certified, Fellowship Trained, Bariatric Surgeon. He is currently the Medical Director at Bariatric & Aesthetic Surgery Associates in Colorado. Dr. Metz has been certified as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence Surgeon by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons. He is well known in the area for his kind demeanor, technical proficiency, and compassionate bedside manner.

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