Is obesity a disease?

The American Medical Association has voted to designate obesity a disease. As Richard Gunderman wrote in The Atlantic this week, this decision has some interesting implications for the way overweight people are perceived and treated, not to mention identified. For one thing, the clinical definitions of overweight (a BMI of 25 to 30) and obese (a BMI of over 30) are seriously flawed.

Defining overweight and obesity using BMI means many athletes, super-fit and with extremely low body fat percentages, are clinically overweight. Jobe Watson, the 2012 Brownlow medallist, is 1.91 metres tall and weighs 95 kilograms, giving him a BMI of 26. In his bodybuilding prime, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a BMI of over 30 (at 6′ 2″, 235-plus lbs), making him clinically obese. The definitions clearly need some refinement.

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