The World Obesity Federation has issued a Position Statement in which the authors state that obesity is a chronic relapsing disease process and fits the epidemiological model of a disease process, except that the toxic or pathological agent is food rather than a microbe. The Position Statement, ‘Obesity: a chronic relapsing progressive disease process. A position statement of the World Obesity Federation’, is published in the journal Obesity Review.
The question of whether obesity should be called a ‘disease’ has sparked controversy in recent years. The statement examines how an abundance of food, low physical activity, and several other environmental factors interact with genetic susceptibility. They draw parallels to chronic diseases, noting that the magnitude of obesity and its adverse effects in individuals may relate to the virulence or toxicity of the environment and its interaction with the host.
“Accepting the concept that obesity is a chronic disease process is important for several reasons,” said Bray. “First, it removes the feeling that patients alone are responsible for their excess weight. It also focuses attention on the ways in which this disease process can be tackled. And finally, it shows that if we can successfully treat obesity, many of its associated diseases will be eliminated.”
The paper states that although obesity is a non-communicable disease process, “the epidemiological model of obesity described earlier tells us that it has a number of features in common with a ‘communicable disease’ including environmental agents, and the host responses to these agents.”
“Early diagnosis and treatment of childhood obesity could be considered similar to vaccination, by targeting individuals from the day of birth. A healthy body weight and healthy lifestyle should be implemented from early stages in life. For preventing damage to the host from obesity, medical personnel play an important role in the evaluation and treatment of the comorbidities in people with obesity.”