US Classifies Obesity As A Disease

Fascinating report today about America having now classified obesity as a disease. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I think it needs to be taken much more seriously by mainstream medicine given the amount of suffering it causes and the cost to the medical establishment. On the other, though, the more cynical me thinks it might just be another rich income stream generator for Big Pharma. Can you imagine all the obesity medicines that will be made available rather than diet and lifestyle advice, counselling and support? I truly hope not.

It seems the debate is already raging:

The American Medical Association (AMA) has officially recognised obesity as a disease, in a move that it hopes will encourage doctors to pay more attention to the condition and so help in the fight against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, there is controversy over the basis of this classification and the effect it might have.

The measure usually used to define obesity, the body mass index (BMI), is increasingly becoming recognised as simplistic and flawed. Some people with a BMI above the level that defines obesity are perfectly healthy, while others below it can have dangerous levels of internal body fat and the metabolic problems usually associated with obesity. It has been argued that obesity should be seen more as a risk factor for other conditions than as a disease in its own right.

The AMA feels that making obesity a disease state will reduce the stigma that arises from the widespread perception that it is simply the result of eating too much and/or exercising too little. On the other hand, ‘medicalising’ obesity immediately defines one third of Americans as being ill and could lead to a greater reliance on costly drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle changes.

There are worries that the move could push up health insurance costs and promote a rash of lucrative anti-obesity drugs. It could also lead to otherwise healthy people being prescribed medication to reduce their BMI to a designated target, in much the same way as recent calls in the UK for the ‘blanket’ prescription of statins to reduce cholesterol levels. 

Ahem, not just me being cynical then ;). It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

In the same newsletter from the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, I also noted these 3 top weight loss food tips from Charlotte Watts, nutritionist – and I have to say I agree with every one of them so thought they might be useful to share. Whenever I tell people to eat more fat and, especially nuts, you lot always look at me askance so it is nice to see someone else saying it!

Weight reduction foods:

  • Saturated fats – fats create appetite satisfaction that can curb sugar cravings; saturated fats from good quality meats and eggs can help body composition when balanced with unsaturated omega-3 oils from oily fish, pumpkin seeds, linseeds and walnuts.

  • Thermogenic foods – protein, chilli, chocolate, coffee and green tea can help to raise metabolism, alongside exercise and exposure to cold.

  • Eating nuts – although often avoided by dieters, nuts are high in essential fatty acids, zinc and magnesium, crucial for insulin regulation; studies show that people who include nuts in their diet tend to put on less weight. 

Also in the newsletter (the theme was obesity, can you tell?!), I saw this update on low GL research. A small study of 12 men given high GI and low GI milkshakes, but it does agree with a growing body of research on low GI/GL eating being of benefit for weight loss:

The study involved 12 men who were randomised to receive one of two types of test meals in the form of milkshakes; the only difference between the two meals was the measure of their GI, with one type having a high and one a low GI.

The researchers found that, compared with the low-GI meal, the high-GI meal decreased plasma glucose, increased hunger and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial (after meal) period, which is a time with special significance to eating behaviour at the next meal.

[1] Lennerz BS, Alsop DC, Holsen LM, Stern E, Rojas R, Ebbeling CB, Goldstein JM, Ludwig DS (2013). Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. Am J Clin Nutr June 26 (Online ahead of print).

In other words, low GL eating could stop you pigging out at the next meal as it is more satisfying. Anyway, if you need help with what all this GL eating involves, it’s quite simple. Download my full Belly Fat book, which is only a fiver, or the simple Low GL Foods list.

One Reply to “US Classifies Obesity As A Disease”

  1. You are right to be sceptical. Having been born there, worked in the system and finally “escaping” to Europe, I know there is much to question.

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