The bubonic plague and obesity. Before this week, the two had nothing in common. The former nearly wiped out entire societies, the latter was the product of too much couch potato-itis and not enough physical activity. On Tuesday, though, the American Medical Association (AMA) decided enough was enough – they are both diseases. Yes, that’s right. Gone are the days when obesity was a condition caused by consuming too many calories, not using enough, or both. From here on out, obesity is an officially recognized “disease” according to the AMA.
While the comparison to the bubonic plague may seem a little extreme, the AMA itself compared obesity to lung cancer in the official resolution announcing the policy shift: “The suggestion that obesity is not a disease but rather a consequence of a chosen lifestyle exemplified by overeating and/or inactivity is equivalent to suggesting that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes.”
It’s an absurd comparison. Conceivably you can “cure” yourself of obesity by shutting your pie-hole or taking long walks on the beach. Lung cancer is a completely different — and far more lethal — beast.
But wait, it gets better, err, weirder. According to the New York Times, one reason in favor of classifying obesity as a disease is because “it would reduce the stigma of obesity that stems from the widespread perception that it is simply the result of eating too much or exercising too little.” So not only is obesity now equivalent to lung cancer, but it also is not actually caused by eating too much or exercising too little. Perhaps un-scientific “political science” efforts like this stunt have something to do with the AMA’s waning influence in recent years. Or perhaps the members of the AMA are hopeful that the government and insurance companies will follow their lead–therefore providing funds for more people to get surgical “cures” for their oversized guts.
All of this got us thinking: Didn’t we see that a similar type of “disease” had been discovered elsewhere? Turns out we did, as reported in the British Medical Journal:
Using positron emission tomography, scientists have discovered a new and potentially life-threatening condition called motivational deficiency disorder (MoDeD) . . . Dr. Leth Argos, a neurologist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, describes the primary symptoms of MoDeD as overwhelming and debilitating apathy, which in severe cases can lead to a potentially fatal complication: A lack of motivation to breathe.
That does sound strikingly similar to the AMA’s classifying obesity as a disease, so maybe it’s not that wacky after all. But there is a catch. That edition of the British Medical Journal was published on April 1 – aka, April Fools’ Day. Guess the AMA didn’t get the joke.