The American Medical Association recently adopted a new policy labeling obesity as a disease, which requires medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.
“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the American Medical Association Board.
Michelle Bailey, the fitness and program director for the Tri-Cities Family YMCA, said some people take issue with the recent change because it’s based on body mass index (BMI), which factors in a person’s weight and height as indicators for a person’s body fat content.
“Sometimes that doesn’t tell the whole story,” she said.
The body mass index considers adults with a calculated body mass and height of less than 18.5 as underweight, 18.5 to 24.9 as normal weight and 25 to 29.9 as overweight. A BMI of more than 30 is considered obese.
Bailey said a body composition test would be a better indicator of a person’s mass, as it takes muscles into account.
Ottawa County Public Health epidemiologist Marcia Knol said body mass index is a screening tool, not a diagnostic finality. She said the presence of obesity is associated with the presence of other things such as chronic disease and some other socioeconomic indicators.
“There is not an established cause-and-effect relationship between obesity and mortality, or obesity and some chronic diseases,” she said.
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The Associated Press contributed to this story.