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Obesity: (not) a question of guilt!

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Obesity: (not) a question of guilt!

March 4th is World Obesity Day

Photo: Nina Niestroj, WWW.NHS-PHOTODESIGN.COM

World Obesity Day on March 4th is regularly used as an opportunity to draw attention to the disease, which already affects almost one in four Germans. Unlike most diseases, the knowledge that obesity is a disease is not yet widespread. In contrast, there is a misconception that it is a condition that is the fault of those affected.

A recent survey1 of 1,200 doctors and other health professionals in 8 countries, including Germany, found that fewer than 27% of respondents correctly classified obesity as a chronic disease caused by a variety of factors, including genetics and environment. The majority, on the other hand, assumed that this was a situation that was reversible. A quarter of those surveyed even named individual behavior and bad habits as the cause of obesity.

The results from Germany only yielded 22% correct categorizations, the second worst result in the country ranking, followed only by Australia. In comparison, Spain performed best with 36% and Brazil with 30%.

Prof. Dr. Matthias Blüher, one of the leading scientists in the field of obesity research and member of the board of the German Obesity Society, made this clear during his lecture “Is obesity a disease?”

In the medical sense, illness is defined as a state of reduced performance that is based on dysfunction of one or more organs. According to Blüher, these criteria are met for most people affected by obesity. “There is no such thing as harmless obesity,” Blüher continued. This was proven, for example, by a register study with 3.5 million insured people from Great Britain, which showed, among other things, that the risk of coronary heart disease is significantly increased if you are overweight and even more so if you are obese.

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Dr. explains that obesity cannot be attributed to poor individual decisions. Sonja Chiappetta: “Obesity is not a question of discipline, but a hormonal regulation disorder.” Trying to achieve weight loss through diets or fasting can be compared to apnea diving. Where the urge to breathe drives the diver back to the surface, the urge to breathe leads to food intake. “Hunger helps us survive and we cannot actively control it,” says Chiappetta. Ultimately, the body adapts and the basal metabolic rate drops. “Every diet ultimately leads to weight gain in the long run.”

Her conclusion: “The stigma of obesity is catastrophic, obesity is not a fault, obesity is not a choice. No one wants to be obese. […] It is a disease that must be accepted as a disease.”

The WHO classified obesity as a disease as early as 2000.2 The Bundestag followed suit in 2020 and decided to commission the G-BA to develop a DMP Obesity, which will come into force shortly and then still has to become part of the reality of care.3 ,4

“Unfortunately, the realization that obesity is a disease has not yet sunk into people’s minds. Unfortunately, this includes some doctors,” says Melanie Bahlke, first chairwoman of AcSD eV. “There is hope that the introduction of the DMP Obesity will at least change this situation.”

“The misconception that obesity is their own fault often leads patients to the conclusion that they have to help themselves instead of getting professional help,” continues Bahlke. “The misconceptions about obesity – among patients and doctors – mean that obesity is not treated in accordance with guidelines. Other diseases are also overlooked because they are attributed to obesity or hidden by it. In the end, the stigma of obesity costs lives!”

With an online event for World Obesity Day on March 4th, AcSD eV is continuing the discussion about obesity as a disease and the question of guilt and bringing it to the public. Over 200 registered participants, those affected by obesity and self-help activists, will discuss with the invited experts. Participation is possible free of charge at www.adipositas-tag.de.

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For 20 years, AcSD eV has been committed to ensuring that those affected by obesity receive appropriate treatment. To this end, he is actively involved in the development of medical guidelines, supports obesity self-help groups in their work and informs the public about the disease through lecture events and media such as the Obesity Mirror.

Sources:

1 The Need for a Strategic, System-wide Approach to Obesity Care, OPEN, March 2024

2 WHO. Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic. WHO Technical Report Series 894, Genf 2000

3

4

Abbreviations:

AcSD – bariatric surgery self-help Germany

G-BA – Federal Joint Committee

OPEN – Obesity Policy Engagement Network

WHO – World Health Organisation

Patient organization active throughout Germany in the field of obesity

We represent the interests of people with obesity.

Contact
AcSD eV
Andreas Herdt
Kolpingstr. 28
65451 Kelsterbach
0172-7339440

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