SOURCE: The Canadian Obesity Network

The Canadian Obesity Network

March 28, 2017 15:25 ET

Obesity as a Chronic Disease: Do Canada's Physicians Know It When They See It?

EDMONTON, AB--(Marketwired - March 28, 2017) - The Canadian Obesity Network (CON-RCO) applauds a new definition of obesity put forth this week in the journal Obesity.

Diagnosing obesity has little to do with scales, tape measures and body shape, according to two Canadian experts. In an opinion piece to be published in the April, 2017 issue of the journal Obesity, Drs. Arya M. Sharma and Denise L. Campbell-Scherer of the University of Alberta suggest that only detailed patient history and objective clinical assessments of health should be used to determine whether an individual has obesity requiring treatment. Assessments include physical examination, laboratory tests and imaging as necessary.

BMI (body mass index), while useful for population health measurement and for individual screening, is not an accurate patient diagnostic tool. Patients who meet BMI criteria for obesity may not require medical intervention ("fat-but-fit"), and others who fall short of the obesity designation may still have abdominal fat accumulation that negatively affects their health ("thin-but-metabolically-obese").

"The bottom line is that not all patients of a certain size require treatment to manage or lose weight," Dr. Sharma, who also serves as CON-RCO's Scientific Director, said. "We argue for a very slight but important modification of the Word Health Organization's definition of obesity, so that treatment is only initiated when abnormal or excessive fat accumulation actually impairs health."

Many organizations, including the Canadian and American Medical Associations, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Obesity Network, now consider obesity to be a chronic disease, like diabetes. However, many health systems, healthcare practitioners, private and public payers and policy makers have yet to embrace this position and orient resources in support, Dr. Sharma added.

"If we use the same tools we use to diagnose other diseases, and not just our eyes or numbers on a scale, to assess obesity, we will ensure all those who need it, get it," he said. "Most people with obesity will only require a routine exam and some lab work to confirm a diagnosis, so it is ought not to be a resource-intensive process. We really have no excuse not to do better."

The Canadian Obesity Network is Canada's largest professional obesity association for health professionals, researchers, policy makers and obesity stakeholders, with 15,000+ members. www.obesitynetwork.ca

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