Thursday, June 20, 2013

AMA Approves Policy Recognizing Obesity as Disease

The AMA this week approved a policy that recognizes obesity as a disease requiring a range of medical interventions with the aim of advancing treatment and prevention.

Timothy Walsh, M.D., chair of the DSM-5 Work Group on Eating Disorders, told Psychiatric News that mental disorders do interact with risk factors for obesity; for example, some psychopharmacologic treatments for serious mental illness are known to cause weight gain. “It’s important for psychiatrists to be aware of obesity as a medical problem and to monitor their patients for weight gain.” He noted that the DSM-5 work group early in its deliberations debated whether obesity should be considered a mental disorder. After much discussion and a comprehensive literature review, the group decided unanimously against including it in DSM-5. “Obesity is the result of an interaction of many influences—genes, environment, sometimes with psychological states and sometimes with abnormal behaviors,” Walsh said. “But we did not think it qualified as a mental disorder.” 

AMA Board member and psychiatrist Patrice Harris, M.D., in a statement noted that improving health outcomes is one of AMA’s goals in its strategic initiative. Harris is a past member of the APA Board of Trustees. “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately 1 in 3 Americans,” said Harris. “The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity.”

For more on this topic, see Psychiatric News here.

(Image: Andrii Kondiuk/


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