Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shame And Blame Has No Role In Addressing Obesity

Balancing the scales Kirk et alAs a regular reader you will be well aware of my recent excursions into the use of comedy to promote a better public understanding of obesity.

A very different (and I dare say more scientific) approach to harnessing the performing arts to promote a discourse on obesity is that taken by Sara Kirk and colleagues, Balancing The Scales, now described in a paper published in Qualitative Health Research.

Their approach is based on the recognition that,

“…individuals living with obesity are caught in the middle, facing judgment by society if they fail to manage their weight successfully and exposing themselves to health professionals who are unable to fully support them…if an individual is unable to make the changes prescribed for weight loss, resentment builds on both sides of the therapeutic relationship.”

This led Kirk and colleagues to extensively explore the issue of obesity from a variety of perspectives resulting in rather unique insights into similarities, differences, points of consensus, and tension associated with values, beliefs, perceptions, and practices among key stakeholders.

The 42 semistructured interviews were conducted in 22 individuals living with obesity, 4 policy makers, and 16 health professionals (8 dietitians, 4 family physicians, and 4 nurses).

Three major themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews:

Blame as a Devastating Relation of Power

“Individuals living with obesity shared feelings of shame and embarrassment with their inability to control their weight on their own. This blaming discourse can easily be seen in messages of “eat less, move more” promoted by health professionals, the health system, and wider society.”

“Individuals living with obesity spoke about the complexities of trying to lose weight, inclusive of cultural, social, and organizational barriers. Despite this insight, however, they placed the final explanation for their weight status on themselves and expressed immense feelings of guilt and shame.”

“All of the individuals living with obesity had tried multiple methods to manage their weight, with limited or no success. This was extremely frustrating for them and compounded their tendency, wholly or at least partially, to blame themselves for this perceived failure.”

“Similar to individuals living with obesity, health professionals struggled to understand the complexity of the issue, which often led to blaming the individual. Health professionals commented on the unrealistic expectations of people who wanted to lose weight quickly and how their role as a health professional could not possibly be supportive of this.”

“The health professionals we interviewed also blamed themselves for not having the answers, and described feeling ill-equipped to assist individuals to make successful changes.”

Tensions in Obesity Management and Prevention

“Both the individuals living with obesity and the health professionals did not feel supported by the health care system. Health professionals [and policy makers] also struggled to know how to approach the issue.”

“Individuals living with obesity also experienced exclusion when attempting to find appropriate support within the health care system. Most individuals in the study began to access this system when they believed they could no longer manage their weight by themselves.”

The Prevailing Medical Management Discourse

“Health professionals experienced many frustrations and contradictions in their experiences with obesity management, and at times questioned the notion of obesity as a disease. Being obese was often in itself not enough to receive health care. Health professionals in this study found it easier to work with individuals living with obesity when they also had another diagnosed chronic condition, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. They could then more confidently prescribe a specific treatment regime.”

As for policy makers,

“[One] policy maker questioned whether medical treatment for individuals living with obesity is necessary…. As an alternative to medicalizing obesity, the policy maker suggested addressing the issue of population health and using health promotion to support the majority of people who are not morbidly obese but are still struggling with weight problems.”

“Overall, individuals living with obesity sought validation for requiring support in a system that currently does not provide the support they need.”

Based on these findings, the authors note that,

“…our findings highlight the need to reframe the public debate on obesity. However, we suggest that rather than choosing one discourse over another (management vs. prevention; system vs. individual), we should engage aspects of both. This requires not only consideration of socioecological perspectives, but also a greater awareness among health professionals of the need to offer support, not advice.”

“Furthermore, relationships between patients and health care providers should be supportive (not blaming), recognizing the widespread prevalence of weight bias in society and working hard to challenge the stereotypes that dominate the discourse on body weight”

“It was also evident in the language and experiences provided by health care providers that training, resources, and support for weight management were a substantive part neither of their professional training nor of the health care system.”

To facilitate improved training of health professionals, the authors have developed the rich narratives obtained in this study into a dramatic presentation, depicting the relationship between a health professional and an individual living with obesity.

This narrative can be viewed here.

For interviews with the researchers – click here.

Clearly, it is work like this that is essential to understanding the current discourse (or rather lack of it) about obesity and finding strategies that do justice to those living with obesity.

There is simply no room for “shame and blame” in such a discourse.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgKirk SF, Price SL, Penney TL, Rehman L, Lyons RF, Piccinini-Vallis H, Vallis TM, Curran J, & Aston M (2014). Blame, Shame, and Lack of Support: A Multilevel Study on Obesity Management. Qualitative health research PMID: 24728109

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Managing Weight Loss Expectations

sharma-obesity-great-expectationsWhile there are almost no limits to short-term weight loss goals (anyone can starve themselves thin) – the reality of long-term weight loss is rather sobering.

While diet and exercise generally provide an average long-term (3-5 years) sustainable weight loss or about 3-5% of initial weight, even bariatric surgery patients tend on average to sustain a weight loss of only 20-30% of their initial weight.

Surgery, although much safer than generally thought, still bears a risk of complications and the question is how much risk patients are willing to assume if they really knew and understood how much weight they are likely to lose with surgery.

This was the subject of a study by Christina Wee and colleagues, published in JAMA Surgery, in which they examined weight loss expectations and willingness to accept risk among patients seeking bariatric surgery.

The researchers interviews 650 patients interested in bariatric surgery at two bariatric centres in Boston.

On average, patients expected to lose as much as 38% of their weight after surgery and expressed disappointment if they did not lose at least 26%.

In fact, 40% of patients were unwilling to undergo a treatment that would result in only 20% weight loss.

Most patients (85%) accepted some risk of dying to undergo surgery, but the median acceptable risk was only 0.1%.

On the other hand, some patients (20%) appeared more desperate, willing to accept a risk of 10% or greater.

As one may expect, there were important gender differences in these findings: while women were more likely than men to be disappointed with a 20% weight loss, they were also less likely to accept a greater mortality risk.

An important finding for clinicians was that patients with lower quality-of-life scores and those who perceived needing to lose more than 10% and 20% of weight to achieve “any” health benefits were more likely to have unrealistic weight loss expectations.

This study not only shows that most patients seeking bariatric surgery have rather unrealistic weight loss expectations but also that   a substantial number may well be be disappointed with their weight loss after surgery.

It is also evident that many patients believe that they need to lose a rather substantial amount of weight to derive “ANY” health benefits, when in reality even rather modest (and certainly the average 20-30% weight loss seen with surgery) carries substantial health benefits for patients. (Many patients would in fact benefit substantially if they simply stopped gaining weight).

I certainly wonder what educational efforts may be necessary to align expectations with the clinical reality of bariatric surgery and whether better managing expectations is likely to alter current practice?

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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Monday, April 7, 2014

The Molecular Mechanism of Sleeve Gastrectomy

sharma-obesity-verticalsleevegastrectomyIn recent year, vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), which involves removing large parts of the stomach, thereby reducing it to the size of a small banana, has gained in popularity in bariatric surgery.

Although slightly less efficacious, it is a far simpler procedure to perform than the “classic” Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

According to popular wisdom, the reason why VSG works has to do with mechanically reducing the volume of the stomach (thereby creating a physical “restriction”), whereby effect on gastric ghrelin secretion may or may not also play a role in reducing hunger (the science on this is somewhat unclear).

Now, a paper by Karen Ryan and colleagues from the University of Cincinnati, published in Nature, provides a completely new explanation for the molecular mechanism by which this surgery appears to work.

The study was prompted by the observation that VBG leads to profound changes in circulating bile acids. Bile acids are now known to bind to a nuclear receptor (farsenoid-X-receptor or FXR for short) which plays an important role in fat and glucose metabolism.

Using a rather elegant series of studies in mice, Ryan and colleagues demonstrate that the weight loss effect of sleeve gastrectomy has little to do with reducing the size of the stomach. Rather, almost all of its effect on body weight appears to be mediated by the effect of this surgery on circulating bile acids and accompanying changes in gut microbial flora.

The researchers also clearly demonstrate that much of the weight loss with SVG is dependent on a functional FXR, without which (as in FXR knockout mice) the surgery has little effect on body weight or glucose metabolism.

This demonstration of the importance of bile acids and FXR signalling as an important molecular mechanism for why VSG actually works is important because it means that this surgery could possibly be mimicked by pharmacological interventions that target bile acid and/or FXR.

In fact drugs that stimulate FXR (e.g. obeticholic acid) are already being considered for other indications including fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

Given the remarkable efficacy of VSG surgery, the possibility of providing the same benefits in a pill are clearly attractive.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgRyan KK, Tremaroli V, Clemmensen C, Kovatcheva-Datchary P, Myronovych A, Karns R, Wilson-Pérez HE, Sandoval DA, Kohli R, Bäckhed F, & Seeley RJ (2014). FXR is a molecular target for the effects of vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Nature PMID: 24670636

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Will Vitamin D Help You Lose Weight?

Vitamin D

Vitamin D

As a regular reader, you may well be aware of the discussions regarding a potential role of calcium and vitamin D in promoting weight loss.

Now, this issue was examined by Mason and colleagues in a 12 month randomised controlled trial, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study involved 218 overweight/obese women (50-75 y of age) with moderate vitamin D deficiency (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] ≥10 ng/mL but

The weight-loss intervention included a reduced-calorie diet (10% weight loss goal) and 225 min/wk of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activity.

A total of 86% of participants completed the 12-mo measurements losing on average about 7 Kg, with no significant differences between the two groups.

There were also no significant differences in the reduction in BMI, waist circumference, percentage body fat, trunk fat, insulin or CRP levels.

At best, there was a slight trend towards greater benefits in women, who became replete with vitamin D supplementation compared to those who did not.

Thus, in summary, simply adding vitamin D to a weight loss regimen does little (if anything) to aid weight loss.

This is not to say that vitamin D supplementation in people with vitamin D deficiency may not be a good thing – it just does not appear to have much effect on body weight.

@DrSharma
Halifax, NS

ResearchBlogging.orgMason C, Xiao L, Imayama I, Duggan C, Wang CY, Korde L, & McTiernan A (2014). Vitamin D3 supplementation during weight loss: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition PMID: 24622804

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Trotting Out STAMPEDE

sharma-obesity-blood-sugar-testing2In the obesity world, this week’s big news is the publication of the three year results of the STAMPEDE trial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

As a regular reader, you may recall my previous post on this randomised controlled trial of bariatric surgery for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

STAMPEDE involved the randomisation of 150 obese patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes to either intensive medical therapy alone or intensive medical therapy plus Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy.

Rather than weight loss, the primary end point of STAMPEDE was a glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) level of 6.0% or less (from a mean baseline of 9.3%).

For the 91% of the patients who completed 36 months of follow-up at three years, 5% of the patients in the medical-therapy group achieved an HbA1c of 6.0% compared to 38% of those in the gastric-bypass group and 24% of those in the sleeve-gastrectomy group.

In addition, surgically treated subjects overall had far lesser need for glucose-lowering medications, including insulin than those receiving medical treatment.

Weight was reduced by 20-25% in the surgical groups compared to a 4% weight loss in the medical arm of the study.

Quality-of-life was also significantly better in the two surgical groups than in the medical-therapy group.

There were no major late surgical complications.

By any reasonable standard, there cannot be any remaining doubt in anyone’s mind that surgical treatment for type 2 diabetes is vastly superior to anything that medical treatment has to offer.

Diabetologists and, in fact, all physicians, diabetes educators, dietitians and other health professionals, who fail to inform and counsel their type 2 patients with regard to surgical treatment options for their condition, risk being accused of malpractice.

Whether patients want surgery for diabetes or not is ultimately their choice – being informed of the potential benefits of surgery should not be a matter of choice – it should be good clinical practice.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

Disclaimer: I am NOT a surgeon!

ResearchBlogging.orgSchauer PR, Bhatt DL, Kirwan JP, Wolski K, Brethauer SA, Navaneethan SD, Aminian A, Pothier CE, Kim ES, Nissen SE, Kashyap SR, & the STAMPEDE Investigators (2014). Bariatric Surgery versus Intensive Medical Therapy for Diabetes – 3-Year Outcomes. The New England journal of medicine PMID: 24679060

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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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