Researchers call for obesity to be renamed to avoid shaming people

An obese man eating a burger

Obesity should be renamed to avoid shaming people

Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 19/05/2023

- 12:15

Around one-in-four adults in England are obese, NHS data has revealed

Obesity should be renamed to avoid stigmatising people and reflect the hereditary nature of the disease, researchers have claimed.

BMI, body mass index, has been earmarked as a measure which particularly confuses people about what obesity is.

Many people have a tendency to believe it simply means carrying too much body fat.

Experts suggest the illness should be rebranded as “Chronic Appetite Dysregulation”.

Somebody standing on scales

Many people have a tendency to believe it simply means carrying too much body fat


It is thought the change could help encourage those with symptoms to get treatment.

Dr Margaret Steele, from the School of Public Health at University College Cork, said efforts should be made to “disentangle” public health and medical meanings of obesity.

She added: “We need to think of the disease as being separate to the BMI category because there's a relationship between them but they're not the same thing.

“Not everyone who's fat has the disease – it might just be that your setpoint weight is higher but there's nothing pathological going on.

“Equally, you can be thin and have the disease as well.”

The European Congress on Obesity in Dublin suggested those struggling with physiological issues should be diagnosed with an illness under a different name.

It has been argued that rebranding obesity could encourage more people to seek help.

However, the medical circles are far from unified on what is meant by obesity.

Stock photo of an overweight woman in London

Stock photo of an overweight woman in London


The World Health Organisation classified obesity as a disease for several decades.

But the National Health Service describes obesity as a “person who has excess body fat”.

Critics of altering our classification of obesity fear it takes away personal responsibility.

Dr Max Pemberton told The Daily Mail: “People who are overweight and want to lose weight should be met with compassion and support.

An obese person in England

There is not complete unity about how to approach obesity in medical circles


“But we can be kind and caring to people who are struggling without claiming they have a disease.

“Disease suggests there is an inevitability when it does not have to be that way.

“There are generic components, just like there are genes that predispose people to be much more likely to become addicted to smoking than other people.

“But we would not classify smoking as a disease – it causes disease but we understand it as a behaviour that we have a choice in.”

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