It's commonly known that obesity is a growing public health problem in America, and now the largest group of physicians in the country may change the way doctors and insurance companies treat obese patients.
Roughly one third of Americans are considered obese, with another third classified as overweight. Now that the American Medical Association is classifying obesity as a disease, more money may be dedicated to prevention and treatment while giving many people some food for thought.
According to the AMA, obesity is defined as having a body mass index, BMI, over 30 or being at least 35 pounds overweight.
Doctors have long known that obesity can contribute to other conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and even certain types of cancers.
"Wish it could have happened earlier," said Dr. Guilford Hartley of the AMA's decision.
Hartley evaluates patients to see if they quality for surgery to lose weight. He believes the new classification may make insurance companies more likely to cover things like gastric bypass surgery, dietician services and gym memberships because they would be seen as treatment for a chronic disease.
If the obesity rate continues, nearly half of all Americans could be considered obese by 2030 -- and all those extra pounds rack up billions in medical bills. It is estimated that it costs about $1,400 more a year to treat an obese patient than a patient at a healthy weight.