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Researchers find that declaring obesity a disease made the problem worse

The decision by the American Medical Association to declare obesity to be a disease has had exactly the reverse impact than what was intended according to new research conducted by Crystal Hoyt and Jeni Burnette of the University of Richmond and Lisa Auster-Gussman of the University of Minnesota that was published in the journal Jan. 28, 2014, edition of the journal Psychological Science.

A woman walks by a sign advertising sugary drinks in a Brooklyn neighborhood with a high rate of obesity and diabetes on June 11, 2013, in New York City.
A woman walks by a sign advertising sugary drinks in a Brooklyn neighborhood with a high rate of obesity and diabetes on June 11, 2013, in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The researchers began their investigation to determine if declaring obesity to be a disease would cause obese people to have less interest in dieting and a lower concern for their weight because the individuals considered themselves to be sick and could do nothing about their illness.

The researchers examined the responses of 700 obese people to written articles that either indicated obesity was a disease or claimed obesity was not a disease.

The overwhelming psychological response to the declaration that obesity is a disease was a lower interest in dieting, a lower interest in eating healthy foods, and a higher acceptance of being obese. The researchers predict that this decision will encourage obese people to consume more high-calorie foods.

The United States has spent billions of dollars fighting the obesity epidemic and has made minimal headway in that fight.

Declaring obesity to be a disease has only served to harm the obese individual’s ability to take control of their own lives.