Wednesday, November 12, 2014

5As of Obesity Management in Primary Care

sharma-obesity-5as-booklet-coverThis week I am again touring Ontario to train health professionals in the 5As of Obesity Management (Kingston, Ottawa, St. Catherines).

It is heartening to see the tremendous interest in this topic and how the message about obesity as a chronic disease resonates with health practitioners, few of who have any prior training in obesity management.

It is particularly rewarding to see how well the Canadian Obesity Network’s 5As of Obesity Management framework is received and embraced by those working in the front lines of primary care, as this is exactly the audience for which this framework is intended.

Regular readers may recall that the 5As of Obesity Management framework was developed by the Canadian Obesity Network in an elaborate undertaking involving scores of primary care providers, experts and patients from across Canada. The tools were modelled using the latest in health information design technology and extensively field tested to ensure their applicability and adaptability to primary care practice.

Rather than overloading the tools with intricate algorithms, we opted for a rather general but insightful set of principles and recommendations designed to facilitate professional interactions that seek to identify and address the key drivers and consequence of weight gain as well as help tackle the key barriers to weight management.

Indeed, the 5As of Obesity Management are steeped in a deep understanding of the complex multi-factorial nature of obesity as a chronic (often progressive) disease for which we simply have no cure.

The framework recognizes that health cannot be measured on a scale, BMI is a poor measure of health and that obesity management should be aimed at improving the overall health and well being of those living with obesity rather than simply moving numbers on the scale.

Research on the use of the 5As in primary practice has already shown significant improvements in the likelihood of obesity being addressed in primary practice.

A large prospective randomized trial on the implementation of the 5As of Obesity Management framework in primary care (the 5AsT trial) is currently underway with early results showing promising results.

I, for one, will continue promoting this framework as the basis for obesity counselling and management in primary care – at least until someone comes up with something that is distinctly better.

If you have experience with this approach or have attended one of the many education sessions on the 5As of Obesity Management offered by the Canadian Obesity Network, I’d certainly like to hear about it.

To view an introductory video on the 5As of Obesity Management click here

@DrSharma
Ottawa, ON

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Should A Political Prescription For Obesity Not Also Include Better Treatments?

sharma-obesity-policy1In the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the editors opine on the need for a political prescription for obesity – in short taxation and regulation of  high-calorie and nutrient-poor food products as the only viable approach to the obesity epidemic. As may be expected, they use the analogy of tobacco as a justification for this approach (given that actual data from government intervention on reducing the consumption of the said foods is so far lacking).

Be that as it may, what caught my attention in the article was the following passage:

“Treating obesity does not work well; preventing it would be better. The global failure to manage obesity, now considered by the American Medical Association to be a disease, may be considered a failure of the evidence-based medicine approach to treating disease….We know that most restrictive diets result in only short-term weight loss that frequently reverses and worsens in the long term, but dietary changes that are sustainable as a lifestyle choice may work. Physical activity is not enough to prevent or treat obesity and overweight, unless it is combined with some kind of dietary intervention. Family and community interventions may work somewhat better than interventions aimed at individuals, but their implementation is patchy. Bariatric surgery has good results in the treatment of morbid obesity, but its use is always going to be limited and a last resort. Pharmaceutical agents may work to some extent, but may have nasty adverse effects.”

The interesting thought here is that the authors parade the lack of effective treatment as a justification for prevention, when I would rather have used this state of affairs to call for greater investments in finding better treatments.

Not that I am not in favour of prevention – indeed, I am all for preventing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, bone and joint disease and everything else.

But, at no point would I ever call for prevention as an alternative to finding better treatments for any of these conditions.

The fact that people still die of cancer should never justify us abandoning the search for better treatments – indeed, as far I can see, the whole Pink Ribbon Industry apparently focusses on “finding the cure” – not on “finding better ways to prevent breast cancer” (even if most experts believe that much of breast cancer is indeed preventable).

Just because  we still have no effective treatments for a host of other conditions, should we abandon the search for better treatments for these conditions?

In short, what irks me most about this article is not the call for prevention – indeed I am all for it!

But when the lack of effective (or safe) treatments is used to justify this call, I must disagree.

No matter how much we restrict and tax the food industry, there will always be people around, who despite their best efforts, will struggle with excess weight. Indeed, there is no reason to believe (at least not for anyone who understands the physiology of obesity) that any form of “prevention” will reverse the epidemic in those who already have the problem – i.e. in about 6 Mill Canadians. (even if we somehow miraculously reduced obesity in the population by 30% through “preventive measures” (well beyond even the most optimistic predictions) – we would still need treatments for 4 Mill Canadians – adults and kids!)

The longer we wait to find and implement effective treatments, the longer these individuals will struggle with a condition that should deserve the same efforts at treatment as we afford individuals with other “lifestyle” diseases (including heart disease, diabetes and cancer).

Let us not forget that treatments for other common conditions (e.g. hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and diabetes) were once lacking – today millions around the world benefit from these treatments – indeed, it is probably safe to say that these medications probably save more lives each year than any known efforts at regulating industry that I know of.

Indeed, if we wish to find more effective ways to manage obesity, we need to vastly increase our efforts at finding better treatments – not abandon them.

Prevention is never an alternative to also having effective treatments. The two go hand-in-hand.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

 

 

 

 

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Social Network Analysis of the Obesity Research Boot Camp

bootcamp_pin_finalRegular readers may recall that for the past nine years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving as faculty of the Canadian Obesity Network’s annual Obesity Research Summer Bootcamp.

The camp is open to a select group of graduate and post-graduate trainees from a wide range of disciplines with an interest in obesity research. Over nine days, the trainees are mentored and have a chance to learn about obesity research in areas ranging from basic science to epidemiology and childhood obesity to health policy.

Now, a formal network analysis of bootcamp attendees, published by Jenny Godley and colleagues in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Healthcare, documents the substantial impact that this camp has on the careers of the trainees.

As the analysis of trainees who attended this camp over its first 5 years of operation (2006-2010) shows, camp attendance had a profound positive impact on their career development, particularly in terms of establishing contacts and professional relationships.

Thus, both the quantitative and the qualitative results demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinary training and relationships for career development in obesity researcher (and possibly beyond).

Personally, participation at this camp has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and I look forward to continuing this annual exercise for years to come.

To apply for the 2015 Bootcamp, which is also open to international trainees – click here.

@DrSharma
Toronto, ON

ResearchBlogging.orgGodley J, Glenn NM, Sharma AM, & Spence JC (2014). Networks of trainees: examining the effects of attending an interdisciplinary research training camp on the careers of new obesity scholars. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 7, 459-70 PMID: 25336965

 

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Disease Severity and Staging of Obesity

sharma-edmonton-obesity-staging-systemRegular readers will be well aware of our work on the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS), that classifies individuals living with obesity based on how “sick” rather than how “big” they are.

For a rather comprehensive review article on the issue of determining the severity of obesity and potentially using this as a guide to treatment, readers may wish to refer to a paper by Whyte and colleagues from the University of Surrey, UK, published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports.

This paper not only nicely summarizes the potential effects of obesity on various organs and organ systems but also discusses the use of staging systems (EOSS and Kings) as a way to better characterize the impact of excess weight on an individual.

As the authors note in their summary,

Using a holistic tool in addition to BMI allows highly informed decision-making and on a societal level helps to identify those most likely to gain and where economic benefit would be maximised.”

Not surprisingly, the Edmonton Obesity Staging System, which has been validated against large data sets as a far better predictor of mortality than BMI, waist circumference or metabolic syndrome, is being increasingly adopted as a practical tool to guide clinical practice.

@DrSharma
Merida, Mexico

ResearchBlogging.orgWhyte MB, Velusamy S, & Aylwin SJ (2014). Disease severity and staging of obesity: a rational approach to patient selection. Current atherosclerosis reports, 16 (11) PMID: 25278281

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Does Lean Tissue Have More To Say About Your Health Than Your Body Fat?

Carla Prado, PhD,  Assistant Professor and CAIP Chair in Nutrition, Food and Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Carla Prado, PhD, Assistant Professor and CAIP Chair in Nutrition, Food and Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

The common assumption is that people with more body fat are at greater risk for illness and overall mortality.

Surprisingly, an increasingly robust body of evidence now suggests that how much lean tissue you have may be far more important for your health than the amount of body fat.

This evidence as well as the methodologies used to study lean body mass are discusses in a paper by Carla Prado (University of Alberta) and Steve Heymsfield (Pennington Biomedical Research Center), in a paper published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.

As the authors point out,

“The emerging use of imaging techniques such as dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound imaging in the clinical setting have highlighted the importance of lean soft tissue (LST) as an independent predictor of morbidity and mortality.

The paper discusses in depth the advantages and limitation of the many methods that can be used to assess body composition in research and clinical settings.

The paper also discusses the current definition and importance of sarcopenic obesity and notes that,

“The identification of different body composition phenotypes suggests that individuals have different metabolism and hence utilization of fuel sources.”

Thus,

“It is clear from emerging studies that body composition health will be vital in treatment decisions, prognostic outcomes, and quality of life in several nonclinical and clinical states.”

My guess is that it will not just be the absolute or relative amount of lean tissue mass that is important. Rather, similar to the increasingly recognised role of differences amongst fat depots, I would assume that different lean soft tissue depots may well play different roles in metabolic health.

@DrSharma
Charlottetown, PEI

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In The News

Diabetics in most need of bariatric surgery, university study finds

Oct. 18, 2013 – Ottawa Citizen: "Encouraging more men to consider bariatric surgery is also important, since it's the best treatment and can stop diabetic patients from needing insulin, said Dr. Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta." Read article

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