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The Washington Post reports on the debate taking place in scientific, business and legal circles over whether obesity should be officially classified as a disease. Such a classification, according to the Post, could take much of the stigma away from being severely overweight, make it easier to get treatment, "could open up insurance coverage to millions who need treatment for weight problems and could speed the approval of new diet drugs."

However, opponents of such a move say that obesity is just a risk factor, not a disease. Classifying it as such would actually divert resources from legitimate diseases, they say.

In proponents' favor is last year's move by the internal Revenue Service (IRS) to allow people to take deductions for health expenses related to obesity and the act of trying to lose weight.

Ironically, it was just yesterday that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a report saying that US businesses last year spent $15 billion marketing and advertising goods and services to children ages 12 and under - with more than half the total devoted to advertising and promoting high fat or sugared foods. CSPI is urging the US Congress to create laws that would prevent many of these marketing efforts.

CSPI also chose yesterday to ask the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to force the KFC restaurant chain to pull television ads that claim that fried chicken is a healthier fast-food alternative.
KC's View:
We think that obesity seems to have crossed the line from being a simple cosmetic or psychological problem, and that classifying it as a disease probably makes sense. The real issue is how you get people to grapple with it and to be educated about its causes…and it seems to us that this needs to be an effort in which many institutions have a role.

Parents, teachers, the medical establishment, the food industry, the government - all have a role to play in dealing with this serious issue. Sure, it is an issue of personal responsibility…but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be multi-layered support systems in place to help people who are suffering from serious weight problems.

Too many food manufacturers and retailers would prefer to think that this isn't their problem, that they just sell the food and shouldn't have to deal with the problems of people who eat too much of it.

But they're wrong.