Obesity medicine is a field of medicine dedicated to the comprehensive treatment of patients with obesity. Obesity medicine takes into account the multi-factorial etiology of obesity in which behavior, development, environment, epigenetic, genetic, nutrition, physiology, and psychosocial contributors play a role. As time progresses, we become more knowledgeable about the complexity of obesity, and we have ascertained that there is a certain skill set and knowledge base that is required to treat this patient population. Clinicians in the field should understand how a myriad of factors contribute to obesity including: gut microbiota diversity, regulation of food intake and energy balance through enteroendocrine and neuroregulation, and adipokine physiology. Obesity medicine physicians should be skilled in identifying factors which have contributed to obesity and know how to employ methods (behavior modification, pharmacotherapy, and surgery) to treat obesity. No person with obesity is alike, and it is important to approach each patient as an individual to determine which factors contributed to their obesity in order to effectively treat each patient.
Some physicians do not feel as though obesity medicine should be its own sub-specialty. Rather, they feel as though obesity, as a complex disease process, should be treated by endocrinologists or physicians who have acquired additional training in the field of nutrition.
In June 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy that recognizes obesity as a chronic disease, a disease process which requires a range of medical interventions to prevent and treat. While professionals from different professions (US senators, congressmen and congresswomen, physicians, and medical students) applauded this decision, others were not so eager to categorize obesity as a disease. Since the initial acknowledgement of obesity as a disease by the AMA, there has been an ongoing debate about the topic.
Only a few medical schools and residency programs offer training and education in the field of obesity. As a result, many physicians fail to recognize obesity and are not equipped to treat it. In order to address this issue, medical schools and residency programs will need to modify their curriculum to teach their students and residents about this disease process to ensure that the large subset of the patients that they encounter in their careers receive adequate treatment.
There are only a few dedicated programs which train clinicians in the field of obesity medicine:
There are several research programs in the field of obesity: