Is obesity a disease?

Each year the Canadian Obesity Network Student and New Professional organization at the University of Ottawa organizes a public event related to obesity and health.  Two years ago Barry Levin from the New Jersey Medical School gave a lecture on strategies for preventing diet-induced obesity.  Last year we hosted a debate titled “Forks vs Feet” between Drs Bob Ross and Yoni Freedhoff, and the resulting video has been viewed more than 1000 times.

This year we are sticking with the debate format, with the question being “Is Obesity A Disease?”.  Our presenters will be Dr Arya Sharma (Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, bariatric physician and a popular blogger) and Dr Jacqui Gingras (an Assistant Professor and Registered Dietitian in the School of Nutrition at Ryerson University, and an advocate of the Health at Every Size Approach).  The event will be moderated by Dr Mark Tremblay, Director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, and author of seminal papers charting the rising level of obesity in the Canadian population.

The debate will be broken into 3 subsections:

  1. The health impact of obesity – does obesity cause increased health risk, or is it merely an innocent bystander?
  2. The medicalization of obesity – how has obesity come to be viewed as a medical condition, and is this a good or bad thing?
  3. Concluding statements: Should obesity be viewed as a disease?

Between each section there will be a moderated Q&A, with the hope being that the event is as much a discussion involving the audience as it is a debate between the panelists.

The event will be taking place from 7:30-9:30pm on June 7th at the Richelieu Vanier Community Centre in Ottawa.  Admission is free (although seating is limited on a first-come, first-serve basis) and refreshments will be provided.  For anyone coming by transit, the number 5 bus comes directly to the center from downtown Ottawa (there is also parking available on-site).  Feel free to print or distribute the posters for this event far and wide (I can provide a PDF version for anyone who would like one)

CIHR Poster

Where is the Richelieu Vanier Centre?

For details on how to find the Vanier Centre, please enter your details into the Google Map below.

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What to do if you don’t live in Ottawa?

As with last year’s debate, we will be making audio and video recordings of the event which will be posted online here at Obesity Panacea and elsewhere.  Unfortunately we won’t be able to livestream this event since there is no wifi at the venue, but we’ll do our best to get the recordings online as soon as possible.  And of course if anyone has a means to livestream video without wifi, I am always open to suggestions!

Also, feel free to submit your questions and comments for the presenters below, and we will do our best to introduce some of them at the debate.


Finally, we would like to thank CIHR for funding this event through the Cafe Scientifique program, the Canadian Obesity Network for providing additional funding support, and the HALO Group at the CHEO Research Institute for providing in-kind support.  And of course we are very thankful to our presenters and to the members of the CON Student chapter at the University of Ottawa for organizing what promises to be an excellent event.

Hope to see you on June 7th!


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4 Responses to Is obesity a disease?

  1. BrunO says:

    Why does it always take so long for mainstream medicine to accept new findings? Nothing about endocrine disruptors? See here Environmental Health Perspectives from February 2012:

  2. Travis Saunders, MSc, CEP says:

    Actually, we expect several people in attendance who have done work in that area. However, I don’t really see how that relates to the topic of discussion – we are not discussing the causes of obesity, we are discussion the condition itself.

    I’ve covered the evidence relating obesity to pollution in the past here:

    It’s a very interesting area for study, but (in my opinion) it’s really too early to tell how much of a contribution it is making.

  3. Susanne says:

    Looking forward to the recording. I downloaded last year’s as a podcast and listened to it on the elliptical and treadmill. Though you miss out on the visual presentation that way, they described the images and graphs pretty well, so it wasn’t a problem.