Is obesity really a disease?

Picture of Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

Much ado was made last June about the American Medical Association (AMA) officially classifying obesity as a disease — it continues to be hotly debated. Specifically, many people argue that obese people who are free from other metabolic problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure are just as healthy as lean people, and should not be targeted for obesity treatment.

But just today, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine lends support for the concept that obesity really is a disease. A large systematic review an meta-analysis was done using 8 different scientific studies (including over 61,000 people) that looked at whether obese people who are otherwise healthy have similar rates of cardiovascular events (like heart attacks or strokes) or death from any cause when compared to lean people who are similarly healthy.


The authors found that the people who were “healthy obese” had a 24% higher chance of having a major cardiovascular event or death over the next 10 years than the lean people did. They suggest that even when obese people may seem to be healthy based on lab tests and blood pressure checks, that they probably have small differences that turn into bigger problems over time.

What does this mean? Well, it may be worth trying to lose weight if you’re above the “normal” BMI range of 18.5 – 24.9, even if everything else about your health seems to be intact… because a few years down the road, you might not find yourself so lucky.




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