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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Oct;25(10):1401-4.

Is obesity a disease?

Author information

  • 1New York Obesity Research Center, St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition, New York 10025, USA. sh311@columbia.edu

Abstract

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.

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PMID:
11673757
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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