Scottsdale surgeon talks obesity designated as a disease

New Swain BWThe American Medical Association has designated as a disease, according to James Swain, MD, who is a bariatric surgeon with the Scottsdale Healthcare Bariatric Center.

Below is a question-and-answer segment focused on the designation:

Question: I read that obesity is now called a disease. Isn’t it really just overeating?

Answer: The American Medical Association has designated obesity as a disease, which may help focus attention on this health matter and facilitate treatment for individuals.

Obesity affects approximately one-third of Americans. For most of these people, their weight problem isn’t simply a matter of overeating. It’s a complex combination of heredity and environmental factors that can be extremely difficult to control by dieting.

Morbid obesity  — being 100 pounds or more over your healthy weight — is a chronic disease characterized by accumulation of fat, leading to an increased risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Unfortunately, morbid obesity also is associated with a shortened life span.

Some studies report that medical weight-loss programs, which involve diet, exercise, drugs and behavior modification, fail in at least 95 percent of morbidly obese people, regardless of how hard they try or their desire to lose weight.

Research about how the body changes as it gains weight indicates that people develop resistance to a hormone in fat cells that should help them control how much they can gain. Once people reach a certain weight, it becomes very hard to lose weight and keep it off.

Bariatric or weight-loss surgery can provide an effective treatment for morbid obesity. It also can eliminate the need for insulin injections or medication for those who are obese and have type 2 diabetes. By putting type 2 diabetes into remission, bariatric surgery also can reduce or reverse obesity-related problems and prevent heart disease, kidney failure, amputation and other serious health issues.

For more information, you may want to attend a free public seminar offered by Scottsdale Healthcare Bariatric Center, designated a Center of Excellence in Bariatric Surgery by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Details and seminar registration are at

Editor’s note: Dr. Swain is a bariatric surgeon with Scottsdale Healthcare Bariatric Center.

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