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.