Challenging the assertion that diet and a healthy lifestyle could represent a fix for obesity is no easy task. However, a group of scientists has done just that. A recent study on obesity has deemed diet and exercise insufficient for curing obesity. They are, in fact, a prescription for failure.
Obesity, as a chronic illness, has been plaguing the United States for some time and the number of obesity-related deaths is frightening to say the least.
As revealed by CDC statistics, approximately 79 million US adults and 13 million US children are obese and their efforts of losing the excess weight are certainly worth considering. What four respected physicians attempted to address the misconceptions connected to weight loss.
Their work was published in Thursday’s issue of Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology and revealed the difficulties that obese patients encounter when, after dealing with their condition for several years, diet and exercise are no longer efficient in returning them to healthy weights.
The study authors spoke about poor awareness where weight loss and obesity are concerned and argued that effective intervention methods cannot possibly be chosen in such a state. Study lead author, Christopher N. Ochner, assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, believes that permanent recovery after long periods of being obese is only possible for only a few.
“We suggest that few individuals ever truly recover from obesity,” the authors wrote in Thursday’s paper, arguing that healthy body weights were particularly difficult to re-attain by exercise and diet alone. Because of the biological adaptations specific to those who have struggled with obesity are different than in the case of people who never struggled with obesity, physicians need to address these adaptations when attempting to achieve successful, sustained and long-term weight loss.
“We believe these mechanisms largely explain the poor long-term success rates of lifestyle modification, and obligate clinicians to go beyond mere recommendations to eat less and move more.”
Dr. Ochner added.
If there is one thing that the human body is particularly good at is adapting to its environment. During its evolution, mankind endured both famine and periods of abundance, and as a result, it developed ways of counteracting longer periods of food scarcity. When drastically reducing one’s calorie intake, the body responds by shutting down any processes that aren’t essential but use calories as fuel. At the same time, the endocrine system begins to produce hunger-inducing hormones in order to ensure proper nutrient storage by tricking the brain into overeating.
The authors then explained that, for each patient, a specific approach is required. If for one patient, leptin replacement might prove effective, that may not be the case for another. Other approaches include bariatric surgery, anti-obesity medication or vagal nerve blockade and while researchers have been investigating the risk-benefit profile for each such treatment option, long-term data is still to arrive.
“Specifically, clinicians should be proactive in addressing obesity prevention with patients who are overweight,”
the study authors wrote, noting that, even if obesity is not the physician’s main concern, it should be immediately addressed. Patients should be made aware of the serious medical risks that obesity encompasses.
When starting treatment, physicians should consider multi-faceted strategies and develop patient-specific treatment plans including biologically based interventions, lifestyle changes, medication and surgery if needed.
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