A Chronic Disease
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Obesity as a disease

"The modern scientific understanding of obesity is that it is a complex disease in its own right."

That understanding has led many major medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization, to conclude that obesity should be considered a distinct disease entity.

"There's no question that obesity is a disease," said Arthur Frank, medical director of George Washington University's Weight Management Program. "Obesity is a disease where there's a disregulation of eating - just like diabetes is a disease where the system of controlling blood sugar is not functioning properly."

Obesity means accumulation of excess fat on the body. Obesity is considered a chronic (long-term) disease, like high blood pressure or diabetes. It has many serious long-term consequences for your health, and it is the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States (tobacco is the first). Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30. The BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height.

The Obesity Epidemic

More than one third of U.S. adults—more than 72 million people—and 16% of U.S. children are obese. Since 1980, obesity rates for adults have doubled and rates for children have tripled. Obesity rates among all groups in society—irrespective of age, sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education level, or geographic region—have increased markedly.

Health Consequences of Obesity

Obesity has physical, psychological, and social consequences in adults and children. Children and adolescents are developing obesity-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, that were once seen only in adults. Obese children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and abnormal glucose tolerance. One study of 5- to 17-year-olds found that 70% of obese children had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 39% of obese children had at least two risk factors.