Yet Andrew Weil, MD, a best-selling author on health and eating, disagrees, saying on his Web site, "I do not consider obesity a disease." Instead, he sees it as "a condition that may increase risk of certain diseases. It is possible to be obese and healthy – if one eats a balanced diet, gets regular physical activity, attends to other aspects of lifestyle that influence health and makes use of appropriate preventive medical services," Weil writes. He declined an email request for comment.
Controversy notwithstanding, with its latest move, the AMA hopes put pressure on insurers to cover the diagnosis of obesity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 65% of adults over age 20 are overweight. At least 30 million Americans have diabetes, also linked to obesity. For obese patients, there also is an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney, and gallbladder disease. Moreover, 17% of children are considered obese.
"We know the health consequences and financial burden of obesity on our country is devastating," says AMA board member Patrice A. Harris, MD. "As physicians who are on the front line treating this disease, we seek to elevate this issue and get people to pay attention to the seriousness of the situation, which was one motivating factor in adopting the new policy."
Since the AMA's decision, it has "sparked a public conversation about obesity and its health consequences," Harris adds.