Wired Magazine has an interesting article titled: “The Thin Pill. How Big Pharma turned obesity into a disease – then invented the drugs to cure it.”

Here is an excerpt:

“Metabolic syndrome is characterized by five risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides (fatty acids in the bloodstream), low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and obesity. Of the five, obesity – which is itself often referred to as an epidemic – is the most important, because the rise of the morbidly overweight is directly driving the rise in the syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is, in fact, almost indistinguishable from obesity – at least 85 percent of those who have the syndrome are obese or overweight.

The tidiness of that correlation makes it tempting to view metabolic syndrome not as an emerging fact of medicine, but as a fiction, wholly devised and disseminated by the pharmaceutical industry. After all, drug companies have long eyed obesity as the ultimate growth market – and they just happen to have an arsenal of pills poised to target it. Such cynicism isn’t misplaced. The drug industry is among the most profitable in the world; pharma’s knack for generating money makes oil companies look like lemonade stands. Drug firms owe their prodigious success to doing one thing exceptionally well. R&D? No – marketing. And as perfect an opportunity as obesity might be, it’s also a legitimate health crisis that’s only getting bigger. The one snag is that most people don’t consider being fat a disease, they see it as a lifestyle problem. Which explains the appeal of metabolic syndrome. It’s a simple, compelling concept that reframes the issue in scientific terms.

But is it real? In some ways, no. You can’t see metabolic syndrome through a microscope, or detect it through a single blood test. Since it’s a checklist of risk factors rather than symptoms, it stretches the way we think of disease. It’s very much a human invention, a “syndrome” – that term researchers assign to things they don’t quite understand. But in other ways, it’s absolutely real. Though championed by drug companies, it’s been defined and recognized by legitimate health organizations. And it’s definitely unhealthy. You can’t die of metabolic syndrome, but you can die of what it leads to: diabetes and heart disease.

And even if metabolic syndrome is just another term for obesity, it wouldn’t be the first condition of daily life to become a disease. Alcoholism, clinical depression, and gastritis were all once considered personal problems that are now recognized as legitimate medical disorders, with all the trimmings of diagnosis, treatment, and pharmaceuticals. Many of these new illnesses, like osteoporosis, are widely accepted. Others, like fibromyalgia and female sexual dysfunction, remain fuzzy quasi diseases with shaky standing in the medical community.”