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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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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Monday, November 10, 2014

How Does Weight Loss Affect Your Quality Of Life?

Lindsey Warkentin

Lindsey Warkentin, MSc, Lead Research Assistant – Acute Care and Emergency Surgery Service at University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

One of the most profound impacts of weight loss in people with severe obesity is on quality of life. But just how much weight loss is required for a clinically important effect?

We now examined this issue in a paper by Lindsey Warkentin and colleagues published in BMC Medicine and selected among the top 10 posters at Obesity Week (congratulations Lindsey!).

We determined the amount of weight loss required to attain established minimal clinically important differences (MCIDs) in health-related quality of life (HRQL), using three validated instruments (Short-Form (SF)-12 physical (PCS) and mental (MCS) component summary score, EQ-5D Index and Visual Analog Scale (VAS), Impact of Weight on Quality of Life (IWQOL)-Lite) over 24 months in 150 wait-listed, 200 medically managed and 150 surgically treated patients from the Alberta Population-based Prospective Evaluation of Quality of Life Outcomes and Economic Impact of Bariatric Surgery (APPLES) study.

In the overall cohort of 500 participants with a mean age of 44, 88% women, 92% white, and a mean initial BMI of 47.9, the percent weight loss required to achieve MCDs ranged between 9% and 25%, depending on the instrument used: 23% for PCS, 25% for MCS, 9% for EQ-Index, 23% for EQ-VAS, and 17% for IWQOL-Lite.

Thus, it appears that the percent weight loss to achieve MCIDs for most HRQL instruments are markedly higher than the conventional threshold of 5% to 10% often seen in the literature – i.e. well beyond what can generally be achieved with diet and exercise (or even pharmacotherapy) at 24 months.

Currently, surgery appears to be the only treatment for obesity that consistently delivers this amount of weight loss (compared to other interventions).

Given that surgery is not a realistic option for the millions of people living with severe obesity, we simply need to find better medical treatments that can deliver sustainable weight loss of this magnitude.

@DrSharma
Kingston, ON
ResearchBlogging.orgWarkentin LM, Majumdar SR, Johnson JA, Agborsangaya CB, Rueda-Clausen CF, Sharma AM, Klarenbach SW, Karmali S, Birch DW, & Padwal RS (2014). Weight loss required by the severely obese to achieve clinically important differences in health-related quality of life: two-year prospective cohort study. BMC medicine, 12 (1) PMID: 25315502

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Obesity Is Not About Lack Of Willpower

Yo-Yo Rubber Band Feb 2014As I prepare to spend the rest of this week educating health professionals in Ontario on how to better manage obesity in their practice, it is perhaps appropriate to remind ourselves that Canada is not alone in attempting to tackle this problem.

Indeed, we need to look no further than the Australian Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Adolescents and Children for a succinct summary of reasons just why obesity management is so difficult:

- Regulation of body weight involves complicated feedback systems that result in changes in appetite, energy intake and energy expenditure. 

- While excess weight in individuals usually results from a prolonged period of energy imbalance, the causes of overweight and obesity are complex.

- Diet and physical activity are central to the energy balance equation, but are directly and indirectly influenced by a wide range of social, environmental, behavioural, genetic and physiological factors—the relationships between which are not yet fully understood.

- Individuals may be at greater risk of weight gain at particular stages in their lives.

The guidelines remind practitioners of the fact that body weight underlies tight regulation through a complex homeostatic system:

“While this system defends against weight gain as well as weight loss under normal circumstances, energy balance cannot be maintained when an energy surplus is sufficiently large and sustained. Weight gain will begin and usually continue until a new weight results in increased energy expenditure and energy balance is re-established. The same physiological mechanisms then seek to maintain energy balance at the higher weight, and will defend against weight loss by increasing appetite and reducing energy expenditure) if there is an energy deficit. As a result, most overweight and obesity results from upward resetting of the defended level of body weight, rather than the passive accumulation of excess body fat.”

This acknowledgement is a vast step forward from previous simplistic views of obesity which falsely view it as just a matter of “calories in” and “calories out”, which falsely imply that individuals should be able to achieve any desired weight simply by volitionally changing this balance through willpower alone.

Indeed, the reality is that the vast majority of individual attempting this “balance” approach to weight management will fail miserably only to gain the weight back.

Thus, the Australian guidelines are not shy about declaring a better need for pharmacological treatments and promoting the more extensive use of bariatric surgery for individuals with sever obesity related health problems.

A clear reminder to all of us that current treatments for obesity are insufficient and better, safer and more accessible treatments are urgently needed.

@DrSharma
Toronto, ON

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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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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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