What Is the Disease of Obesity?

Obesity meets the three main criteria for a disease:1,2

  • The condition impairs normal function
  • The condition has characteristic signs or symptoms
  • The condition causes harm or morbidity

AACE/ACE Comprehensive Clinical Practice Guidelines for Medical Care of Patients with Obesity Recommendations3

  • R1.A. The principal outcome and therapeutic target in the treatment of obesity should be to improve the health of the patient by preventing or treating weight-related complications using weight loss, not the loss of body weight per se.
  • R1.B. The evaluation of patients for risk and existing burden of weight-related complications is a critical component of care and should be considered in clinical decisions and the therapeutic plan for weight-loss therapy.
  • R2. The modality and intensity of obesity interventions should be based on the primary, secondary, and tertiary phases of disease prevention; this 3-phase paradigm for chronic disease aligns with the pathophysiology and natural history of obesity and provides a rational framework for appropriate treatment at each phase of prevention.
1.1 Obesity as a Chronic Disease
1.2 Obesity Pathophysiology
1.3 Anthropometric Evaluation
1.4 Clinical Evaluation


  1. Mechanick JI, Garber AJ, Handelsman Y, Garvey WT. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists' Position Statement on Obesity and Obesity Medicine. Endocrine Pract. 2012;18:642-648.
  2. American Medical Association. AMA adopts new policies on second day of voting at annual meeting. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association; 2013. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/2013/2013-06-18-new-ama-policies-annual-meeting.page
  3. Garvey WT, Mechanick JL, Brett EM, et al. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and American College of Endocrinology Comprehensive Clinical Practice Guidelines for Medical Care of Patients With Obesity. Endocr Pract. 2016;22(suppl 3);1-205.