Designation of Obesity as a Disease: Lessons Learned From Alcohol and Tobacco


Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in the USA. The American Medical Association recently recognized obesity as meeting the definition of a chronic disease. This declaration had the intention of improving screening and long-term treatment and is historically similar to the designation of tobacco and alcohol dependence as a chronic disease. Nevertheless, it has ignited a nationwide debate in both academia and public opinion. The current article reviews the implications of treating obesity as a chronic disease, comparing the similarities in pathophysiology of obesity and other addictions, and discusses the pros and cons of this designation as it pertains to health care workers and patients.

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Conflict of Interest

Dr. Ebbert reports grants from Orexigen, outside the submitted work.

Dr. Edakkanambeth Varayil, Dr. Mundi, Dr. Martindale, and Dr. Hurt declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Ryan T. Hurt.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Nutrition and Obesity

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Hurt, R.T., Edakkanambeth Varayil, J., Mundi, M.S. et al. Designation of Obesity as a Disease: Lessons Learned From Alcohol and Tobacco. Curr Gastroenterol Rep 16, 415 (2014).

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  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Disease
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Addiction