The monetization of obesity

It’s all over the news: The American Medical Association released a statement recognizing obesity as a disease.

Obesity advocacy groups hailed the decision as a major victory. AMA Board Member, Dr. Patrice Harris, said, “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans.” Joseph Nadglowski, president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition, a non-profit obesity advocacy group, felt that identifying obesity as a disease may also help in reducing the stigma often associated with being overweight.

It all sounds good, doesn’t it? Let unstigmatize obesity. Let’s not blame the victim. Let’s get these people help when and where they need it.

Step back a second. How and why did this happen?

Well, it’s hard to know how the internal discussions at the AMA went until we get a look at the transcripts. But let’s take a look at the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC). I believe it tells the whole story.

The OAC Board of Directors is filled with bariatric surgeons, such as Drs. Titus Duncan and Lloyd Stegemann, people who make a living from procedures and surgeries like gastric bypass and lap-band. The largest contributors to the OAC? Eisai Pharmaceuticals, maker of BELVIQ, the new drug for weight loss; Ethicon EndoSurgery, makers of laparoscopic operating room supplies; Vivus, Inc., another obesity drug maker; the American Society for Bariatric Surgeons; and Orexigen, developer of the combination drug naltrexone-buproprion for weight loss, now in FDA application stage. (Recall that naltrexone is the opiate blocking drug taken by heroin addicts but now being proposed to be gain approval for weight loss.)

In other words, while it is being cast as something being done for the public good, the motivation is more likely to be . . . money: Bariatric surgeons gain by expanding the market for their procedures to patients who previously did not have insurance coverage for this “non-disease”; operating room supply manufacturers will sell more equipment for the dramatically increased number of surgical procedures; obesity drug manufacturers will have the clout to pressure health insurers to cover the drugs for this new disease.

From the perspective of the Wheat Belly arguments, I see the world something like this: Tell the world to eat more “healthy whole grains,” complete with the gliadin-derived opiates in wheat that stimulate appetite by binding to the opiate receptors of the human brain; we eat more–400 calories per person, per day, 365 days per year, with most of those calories coming from junk carbohydrates like corn chips and soft drinks, the sort that stimulate insulin, the hormone of fat storage; experience repetitive high blood sugars and insulin from the amylopectin A of wheat, the complex carbohydrate in wheat that behaves more like a simple sugar. We gain and gain and gain.

Doctors blame us for gluttony, failure to exercise enough, too many snacks, etc., then thoughts of drugs and surgery start to be entertained.

Treating obesity as a disease allows this condition to be subsumed under the domain of healthcare. After all, “healthcare” is nothing of the kind: It has nothing to do with health. Consistent with much the way healthcare is conducted nowadays, I call the healthcare system “The system to maximize profit from sickness.” And so now it goes with obesity.

To the system, you are worth more obese than slender. You are worth more diabetic than non-diabetic. And you are worth more as a wheat-eater than as a non-wheat eater.

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70 Responses to The monetization of obesity

  1. Pingback: Fat Head » It’s Official: Obesity Is Now A Disease

  2. mary says:

    Just had to have a barbecue hot dog tonight. Chose gluten free hornel’s and made thin buckwheat crepes to wrap around.
    For the mix I added stone ground buckwheat flour, an egg tbsp of oil and baking soda and buttermilk and added a bit more liquid to thin them out.
    Made this up myself. Wheat free for almost a year-lost 30 lbs.

  3. Pingback: Main Atkins Diet Forum Is obesity a disease?

  4. Pingback: Is Obesity a Disease? | Mark's Daily Apple

  5. Neicee says:

    Dr. Davis, Mark over at has a posting about our favorite subject this morning: obesity and is it a disease? You were mentioned and many of the commenters referenced you too. :)

  6. Pingback: The War On Obesity

  7. Pingback: It’s Official: Obesity Is Now A Disease | Collins Strength and Conditioning

  8. Boundless says:

    And across the pond in Sweden, low-fat is about to get officially chucked into the fjord.

    • Boundless says:

      I don’t think we have a full translation of the Swedish SBU report, but as I read Dr. Eenfeldt’s remarks, I sensed that the SBU was being extremely cautious about the whole matter. This is probably the prototype for how low-fat/high-carb will be overturned in the rest of the world.

      If you were expecting a statement like:
      “Today we announce that the consensus diet of the last half century has been a major disaster. Medicine’s failure to note the obvious, and detect the frauds, borders on malpractice. Almost everyone with an MD was an idiot.”
      Well, that’s not going to happen, due to legal liability, and the precarious position that organized medicine finds itself regarding simple credibility.

      The medical committees are going to try to be slow and subtle about this. This SBU report may appear low-key to most of the public, but it’s strident claxon to those in healthcare who pay any attention to it. What? Diet suddenly matters? And we had it upside down? Yep.

      I took an only slightly satirical look at this with:

      • Barbara in New Jersey says:


        At least this is a good start back to sensibility concerning our diet, foods and health status. I expect the seed companies to use every trick they can think of to increase their sales and dominance in the world of food, just like the tobacco industry did. A last ditch effort to keep everyone addicted and purchasing their products as much as possible while overall sales are diminishing.

        in Megatrends fashion, there will be much more print and publicity about this topic.
        The naysayers will be as vocal and flashy as big money can buy. It won’t change my mind about eating wheat again. It is my joints that don’t ache anymore and my acid reflux that is gone. My bp. bs and cholesterol that has normalized just by NOT eating grains and sugar. Monsanto and big pharma don’t care about me and don’t provide anything that will restore my health if I keep using their products. So why on earth should I continue to make myself sick? Their bubble is ready to burst.
        Shame on them for doing so much harm to people and our planet.

        • Boundless says:

          > At least this is a good start …

          It’s a start. We’ll soon see if it’s an effective one.

          > I expect the seed companies to use every
          > trick they can think of to increase their
          > sales and dominance in the world of food, …

          They may be about to lose key endorsements, and they also need to be mindful of future liability. Right now, both governments and medical guilds advocate low-fat (which implies high carb) diets with overdoses of the fraudulently named “healthy whole grains”.

          A strong message from the SBU report is:
          the data no longer support such advocacies,
          if indeed the data ever did.

          Those at future risk for having promoted grains are in many cases no stupid (can’t say for the government on that score). They know the First Rule of Holes:
          When you find yourself in one, stop digging.
          The medical community is apt to soon stop being shills for Big Grain.

          > My bp. bs and cholesterol that has normalized
          > just by NOT eating grains and sugar.

          That’s another nuclear footnote in the SBU report:
          Consensus lipid theory is probably incorrect, also upside down.

          We’ll need to see the complete report to see just how thoroughly they considered the matter of “cholesterol” – how it’s measured and how much the various metrics even matter.