Obesity officially labeled as 'disease' by American Medical Asso - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Obesity officially labeled as 'disease' by American Medical Association

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

In the last 15 years, the obesity rate has increased 50% in the United States.

As a result, the American Medical Association voted Tuesday night to officially identify obesity as a disease.

The AMA said research indicates that without change, half of the US population will qualify as obese by 2040.

The group's report said the problem has become so large, it now requires the medical care, research and education of other major diseases.

"It's going to have to be a intense focus on research," said UT Health Northeast Doctor David Shafer. "The same focus that we put on heart disease, breast cancer and cancer in general."

While obesity itself is not a killer, its consequences include killers like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Insurance companies are already taking note.

"They're well aware that overweight people cost them more money," Shafer said. "So they have already started making this push, as had Medicare. They realized that this country, that all of us cannot afford the consequences of obesity."

Experts also warn that the new label doesn't mean there will soon be a magic cure.

"When it is labeled as a disease, people assume that there's going to be a pill to fix that," said ETMC Olympic Center Exercise Specialist Cassie Ebert. "So far that has not happened."

"There aren't remarkably effective treatments out there available," Shafer said. "So the personal responsibility aspect of it is going to be very important."

While surgery does help some of the most extreme cases, exercise will remain a vital part of being healthy.

The exercise route helps with all kinds of other things," said Ebert. Medical "Weight loss doesn't necessarily reduce those risk factors."

The group said their focus is on prevention, hoping to stop the issue from becoming a larger problem.

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