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U.S. doctor group votes to recognize obesity as a disease

An overweight woman sits on a chair in Times Square in New York, May 8, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
An overweight woman sits on a chair in Times Square in New York, May 8, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Nick Carey

CHICAGO (Reuters) - In order to fight what it described as an "obesity epidemic," the American Medical Association voted on Tuesday to recognize obesity as a disease and recommended a number of measures to fight it.

The association voted on the measure at its annual meeting in Chicago. The AMA noted that obesity rates in the United States have "doubled among adults in the last twenty years and tripled among children in a single generation" and that the World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Internal Revenue Service already recognize the condition as a disease.

According to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012," a study released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in September last year, adult obesity rates in 2011 exceeded 30 percent in 12 U.S. states. The study projected that "if rates continue to increase at the current pace, adult obesity rates could exceed 60 percent in 13 states, and all states could have rates above 44 percent by 2030."

Obesity is associated with a variety of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Rising obesity is expected to increase America's already high health care costs.

The AMA's recommendations accompanying the vote included urging physicians and insurance companies to "recognize obesity as a complex disorder," encouraging national efforts to educate the public "about the health risks of being overweight and obese."

The AMA also recommended the creation "National Obesity Awareness Month" to highlight the benefits of exercise and to warn of the risks of obesity.

(Reporting By Nick Carey. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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