Thursday, November 20, 2014

Obesity Myth: Losing Weight Is Always Beneficial For Your Health

sharma-obesity-scale2Another common misconception about obesity discusses in our recent paper in Canadian Family Medicine, is the notion that anyone with excess weight stands to benefit from losing weight.

The benefits of weight loss, however are far from as established as most of us may think:

“The strong biological response to weight loss (even the recommended 5% to 10% of baseline weight) involves comprehensive, persistent, and redundant adaptations in energy homeostasis that underlie the high recidivism rate of obesity treatment.

The multiple systems regulating energy stores and opposing the maintenance of a reduced body weight illustrate that fat stores are actively defended.

Among the adverse effects of weight loss, it is well known that body fat loss increases the drive to eat, reduces energy expenditure to a greater extent than predicted, and increases the tendency toward hypoglycemia.

Weight loss is also related to psychological stress, increased risk of depressive symptoms, and increased levels of persistent organic pollutants that promote hormone disruption and metabolic complications, all of which are adaptations that substantially increase the risk of weight regain.

In addition, there is considerable concern about the negative effect of “failed” weight-loss attempts on self-esteem, body image, and mental health.

Thus, clinicians should document and consider the powerful biological counter-regulatory responses and potential undesired effects of weight loss to maximize the success of their interventions. Obesity is a chronic condition and its management requires realistic and sustainable treatment strategies.

Successful obesity management requires identifying and addressing the obesity drivers as well as the barriers to and potential complications of weight management. Family physicians should discuss the possible adverse effects of weight loss with their patients and actively look for these effects in patients trying to lose weight.”

@DrSharma
Wellington, NZ

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Video: Principles of Obesity Management

Arya Sharma Kingston Nov 2014Over the past weeks, I have given a rather large number of talks on obesity management to a variety of health professionals. Now, there is a recording of one of my talks (which I gave a few days ago in Kingston, Ontario) on Youtube.

Although the quality of the recording is perhaps not the best and the talk is rather long (about 100 minutes), for those of you, who would like to have a better grasp of how I think about and approach obesity management, here is the link.

Feedback is very much appreciated.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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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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Friday, October 31, 2014

German TV Looks At Healthy Obesity

Arya Sharma on bike 3SATRegular readers will be familiar with the fact that not all people with excess weight necessarily have health problems. Now, the 3SAT television channel, which broadcasts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland has produced a 45 minute documentary on the science behind these findings.

Although the film is in German, I thought I would post the link anyway as many of my readers may well be able to grasp the story even if they are not entirely fluent.

To watch the documentary on line click here.

Incidentally, I am featured about 2.5 minutes into the film, discussing the Edmonton Obesity Staging System and related issues.

Appreciate all comments.

@DrSharma
Toronto, 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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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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