obesity

Should obesity be classed as a disease?

Alex Light

Obesity is a complex subject – as clearly demonstrated by the latest Cancer Research campaign that sees huge packets of cigarettes bearing the slogan: 'Obesity is a cause of cancer too'.

While Cancer Research was, no doubt, aiming to educate with this campaign – new figures show that excess weight has been directly linked to 4.000 more cases of bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancer than those caused smoking – the campaign has widely been construed as flawed because it perpetuates the feelings of shame and stigma attached to obesity.

The campaign also alludes to obesity being a choice – a lifestyle choice fuelled by individual greed. But it's just not. It's complex and the idea that 'you should just stop eating so much' just doesn't work. It's not that easy, or obesity wouldn't exist.

Now, medics have said that obesity should be classified as a disease to help remove the stigma that it is self-inflicted. They hope that this will encourage sufferers get help.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, they stated that up to 70 per cent of weight variability was inherited, and that the most recent cause of obesity is down to an 'altered environment' that sees cheap food readily available.

"Body weight, fat distribution and risk of complications are strongly influenced by biology – it is not an individual's fault if they develop obesity," writes John Wilding, professor of medicine at the institute of ageing and chronic disease at the University of Liverpool and Vicki Mooney, executive director of the European Coalition for People living with Obesity.

"Despite these facts, the prevalent view is that obesity is self-inflicted and that it is entirely the individual's responsibility to do something about it."

The pair go on to argue that classifying obesity as a chronic disease rather than a lifestyle choice "should help reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by many people with obesity". This, in turn, should hopefully help those who want to get help to reach out to the NHS for advice and guidance.

What do you think about this subject? Please comment below.

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