Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

RST: Obesity a disease?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jul 7, 2013 4:21 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Monday, July 8:


About one-third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index or BMI of over 30.  A BMI is calculated by a formula that takes into account a person's height and weight.

Obesity can be a factor in heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

The CDC says it is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Last month, the American Medical Association voted to classify obesity as a disease rather than a disorder.  The thinking behind the move was to bring more attention to what the AMA calls an epidemic and possibly get health insurers to pay for treatment of obesity.

The AMA was criticized by those who say calling obesity a disease will give obese people an excuse for not changing their lifestyles.

On Monday's Radio Smart Talk, we'll examine obesity and the argument for it being designated as a disease.

Appearing on the program will be Dr. Joseph Cincotta, Medical Director at Pinnacle Health and Dr. Ann Rogers, Director of the Penn State Hershey Medical Center Surgical Weight Loss Program.


Dr. Joseph Cincotta and Dr. Ann Rogers

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  • DaynawithaY img 2013-07-07 20:51

    I usually enjoy Radio Smart Talk, but I am not looking forward to this discussion, as I know that your show is paid for by companies that endorse and profit from stomach amputations and other forms of body mutilation all in the name of weight loss. Journalism is supposed to be unbiased. How can you be unbiased if you take money from companies that make money off of fat people's insecurities?

    How many fat people will be on your panel? It is disingenuous to have a discussion about fatness without fat people having a voice. If you're not going to have fat people in the studio, at least check out what fat people have published on this topic:

    Additionally, the photo you included with your post is appalling. Fat people are people, not just bellies or butts. If you're going to use a photo, at least have the decency to include the person's head.

    You cited CDC stats in the introduction. Do your research: look at what Kathleen Flegal of the CDC had to say about those supposed "facts."

    Then keep digging. Research "Health At Every Size." Start at

    Being fat is not a death sentence. In fact, fatness has protective value. For example, “After adjusting for diabetes and hypertension, severe obesity was no longer associated with mortality, and milder obesity was associated with decreased mortality. There was a significant interaction between diabetes (but not hypertension) and BMI, such that the mortality risk of diabetes was lower among mildly and severely obese persons than among those in lower BMI categories.” -

    But don't stop there. Read this article, "Public obsession with obesity may be more dangerous than obesity itself, UCLA author says." Do you think that maybe you're feeding into that obsession? Poor journalism again.

    Don't want to search for journal articles yourself? Then check out these sites:

    While you're at the last one, see what a professional with years of experience working with fat people and nutrition has to say about the AMA's decision: //

    I highly recommend you hold off on talking about this topic so that you have time to do your research and do the topic justice.

  • JohnnyRide img 2013-07-07 23:15

    The first four paragraphs are terribly misleading.

    First, we are told that one-third of Americans are "obese," and then informed of how obesity is defined. However, we're only told that it's based upon some ratio of weight to height. We are not told why a BMI of a certain amount is undesirable. More importantly, we aren't told why--or even if--BMI is an accurate indicator of obesity.

    All the first two paragraphs do is tell us what obesity is: a number that describes someone's shape. Why are high BMIs undesirable? The third paragraph attempts to explain that, but it does so is deceptively misleading fashion. We are told, "Obesity can be a factor in heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and some forms of cancer." Note that it reads "can be a factor." With that wording, there's no arguing against the validity of this statement. Of course it "can be" a factor! How often is it a factor, though? We need more information than this. How does it factor in for each of the medical issues listed? My biggest fear, though, is that the average reader won't read that sentence as "can be a factor," but as "will be a factor" or "is a factor." They will interpret that sentence as meaning that obesity will definitely cause those medical issues.

    The fourth paragraph is misleading because of a dearth of information. We're told that obesity is the "leading cause of preventable death in the U.S." We aren't told at all how obesity causes death. How does the CDC support that bold assertion?

    • DaynawithaY img 2013-07-08 00:05

      Good questions, JohnnyRide. The fact of the matter is, the information isn't there because it doesn't exist. Fat never killed a person. There are no diseases that are restricted to fat people. Every single ailment a fat person has suffered has occurred in thin people. Unfortunately, because of bias against fat people, many individuals do not seek medical care. Check out the First Do No Harm blog. Hundreds of stories of people who have been mistreated because of their size. The AMA's decision won't help; it will only legitimize fat phobic doctors' fears.

      Face it. Fat people are here to stay. Stop trying to enact genocide upon us.

    • Scott LaMar img 2013-07-08 15:22


      The articles describing Radio Smart Talk programs are just that -- descriptions -- purposely excluding much of the information on a topic so that people will listen to the program. As far as your criticism that a reader will misread "can be a factor" -- I don't know how to answer that because someone who reads this could read anything incorrectly.

  • DaynawithaY img 2013-07-08 07:25

    'ASDAH calls upon all physicians to reject the AMA’s position. If the AMA’s decision to label “obesity” is widely adopted by doctors and policy makers, ASDAH believes that levels of weight stigma, bariatric surgery, dangerous weight loss drugs, and disordered eating will increase, while health levels decrease overall. “We know that the vast majority of doctors are well-intentioned and care deeply about their patients. We are also confident that the medical community will someday look back on weight loss treatments the way we now regard bloodletting, lobotomies, and conversion therapy,” commented ASDAH President Fall Ferguson. “The problem is, how many victims of this misguided policy will there be before that realization comes?'

    I have heard arguments that if fat people don't want to be bullied about their size, then they should lose weight. Really? How many other bullying victims do we tell to change themselves to end the bullying?

    On top of that, long-term weight loss is impossible. Did you listen to "Science Friday" on July 5? I found it sad that the physicians/pharmacologists were arguing for research-based medications and supplements, yet they glibly suggested weight loss to treat various ailments. The truth is, long-term weight loss has not been found possible for the majority of people. Even people who have undergone stomach amputation regain weight.

    People need to get off their obsession with policing others' bodies and accept that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Diversity is natural and good. As Ragen Chastain says, "The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not size dependent."

  • DaynawithaY img 2013-07-08 07:28

    To hear Golda Poretsky discuss fatness and the fat civil rights movement live on the Huffington Post, follow this link:

  • mickelandsons img 2013-07-08 07:59

    We must recognized obesity as a “side effect” illness, prevalent obesity is in fact a modern day phenomena created by the proliferation of food chemicals which have been approved by the Food and Drug administration. The astronomical increase in obesity over the past 40 years cannot be blamed on simple “overeating” or gluttony, it is a fact that processed foods such as high fructose corn syrup and other chemicals have polluted the food supply.

    Processed foods and chemical additives are directly linked to obesity. In plain English, the people have been sold obesity for food manufacturer profit.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-08 08:40

    Email from Manuel, Carlisle

    On November 18, 2008 I stepped on the scales at work, and the number 344 came up. While my doctor had been telling me I needed to lose weight, it never hit me, until I realized I was approaching 350 lbs. Since then, I’ve switched my diet to a mostly vegetable product diet, which allows me to never be hungry, and mostly whole grains rather than refined grains. I also go to the gym at least 4 days a week, and have dropped 132 lbs as of today, and with continued work, I hope to achieve my goal weight of under 190 by the end of 2014.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-08 08:45

    Email From Manuel, Carlisle

    Can you guests talk about how after bariatric surgery, there are those who do not make lifestyle changes can have increased health issues, and frequently regain their weight.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-08 08:46

    From: Thomas
    Manheim Twp' Lancaster county

    first of all, once again society is trying to make excuses for bad behavior.

    i am a vegetarian, go to the gym at least three times a week, never smoked or drank.

    children are born weighing no more the 6-10lbs its what happens after that date.
    i also cant remember the last time i was in a fast food joint.

    this is an excuse for bad behavior!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-08 08:48

    From: Caleb
    Do obese people cost more money in the healthcare system? It seems that they should cost more while they are living but die sooner which evens out the lifetime spending. Thanks, Caleb

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-08 08:49

    From: Eugene

    This is a related question to your discussion this morning.

    There is a lot of talk about reducing health care costs, but is this realistic given the ever increasing sophistication in health care technique and technology ( a good thing to be sure) coupled with the public's expectation of having every problem (including medical ones) solved? Given these two realities, won't health care costs continue to increase significantly? Would it not be more realistic to speak of mitigating the increase in health care costs rather than reducing them?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-07-08 08:50

    Manuel, Carlisle

    On November 18, 2008 I stepped on the scales at work, and the number 344 came up. While my doctor had been telling me I needed to lose weight, it never hit me, until I realized I was approaching 350 lbs. Since then, I’ve switched my diet to a mostly vegetable product diet, which allows me to never be hungry, and mostly whole grains rather than refined grains. I also go to the gym at least 4 days a week, and have dropped 132 lbs as of today, and with continued work, I hope to achieve my goal weight of under 190 by the end of 2014.

  • Harry Minot img 2013-07-08 09:03

    I hope you'll read this article before you conduct that program:

    I have some relevant personal experience:

    You can contact me through FaceBook if you care for a wholly contrarian view. But, looking at your guest list, I'd be surprised if you do.

  • Robert D Colgan img 2013-07-08 09:20

    Obesity is a Disease...?
    My only amazement is that the AMA waited this long to recognize a health problem needing address....even though most doctors have for years have tried to help their patients lose extra pounds knowing well the potential damage from the extra stress on joints and organs.

    The only thing that I find most troubling here is a failure on the part of the doctors to see The Invisible Past as the most important consideration for diagnostic this the psychiatrists (though not the ones totally in the grip of PHRMA recommendations as their sole approach to treatment) and the psychologists are closer to the truth: that it is the inner person, often the inner child whose neediness from unresolved emotional conflict or trauma is actually the one calling the shots. Even though it appears to be an adult human being in the exam may not be that adult who decides what to binge on late at night but the child deprived of love and affection.

    I also think that looking at the endocrine system, particularly the thyroid and the need for iodine supplementation to boost T3T4 levels is as necessary as commencing meaningful exercise.

    And, I agree fully with that caller who said that partnering----putting obese people together to motivate and assist one another ----is a huge component of successful therapeutic outcome.

    That Drs Rogers and Cincotta deeply care about their patients came through on the show. I wish them the best.

  • Ms. Anthropy img 2013-07-08 15:30

    It's clear to me from looking at many many news photos about "obesity" that it tragically leaves people without heads. It is clearly a disease not to have a head. I think it's important to investigate whether enforcing lifestsyle changes on the people who supply stock photos to fearmongering articles about fat might help "obese" people to regrow their heads.

    On the other hand, the only people who ever died of fat are the ones that got sat on when they engaged in pointless hatred and harrassment of fat people. I'm in favor of studying the diseases that "obesity" is supposedly connected to. Thin people also get heart disease, diabetes, hangnails, and other things associated with "obesity." Tragically, they don't have the option of "lose 50 pounds and call me in the morning" that fat people have. So let's study the actual diseases and stop wringing our hands about chubby bellies.

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