Obesity Recently Recognized as a Disease

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The American Medical Association recently announced that obesity – an issue that plagues many people – will now be recognized as a disease.

Lack of insurance coverage is one of the main reasons people choose not to pursue weight loss surgery, said Donovan Teel, MD, of Premier Metabolic Associates, a Premier Health Specialists practice. He added that obesity issues, up to now, have not been given as much attention as other issues.

“Obesity has a tremendous amount of prejudice and bias against it, because it is a disease that is directly visualized on the outside of the person as opposed to most diseases that take place on the inside of a person where it cannot be seen,”  Dr. Teel said. “The perception is that it is entirely based on choices and that it is a self-induced disease – which certainly there is a role for choices in it – but it is more complicated than that. As it is with many other diseases, genetics and the metabolic rate of a person play a significant role.”

Obesity is one of the greatest public health and economic threats facing the United States, but many private health insurers, employers and state health plans specifically exclude obesity as a treatable issue under their coverage policies, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

People with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 have a 50 to 100 percent increased risk of premature death compared to people of a healthy weight, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Having a high BMI also leads to an increased risk of developing more than 30 obesity-related diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Ultimately, obesity-related deaths – especially ones caused by diabetes heart disease and cancer – were significantly reduced after gastric bypass surgery, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Teel said the benefits of weight loss surgery can no longer be ignored.

“Obesity can be extremely expensive – especially when you are talking about treating diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer,” he said. “I would challenge you to find one other area of medicine where there is such a high return on investment, where you can put a certain amount of money in and you get a reduction in cost over time.”

For more information about how gastric bypass surgery and about obesity as a disease, talk with your physician for more information.

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