Obesity is now one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the world. While there are certain treatment and lifestyle modulation options currently available to deal with the problem, conclusive methods to treat and prevent an overweight condition or obesity are still limited.
Let’s take a look at some of the more recent advances in research that may provide a foolproof way to tackle obesity:
A variety of over-the-counter and prescription drugs for weight loss are available today. People use these to curb their appetites; these have been found to reduce about ten per cent of a person’s excess weight, following which the weight loss plateaus within a period of six to eight months. Weight gain usually occurs once a patient stops taking the medication. Further, there are a lot of side effects associated with usage of weight-loss drugs.
Common weight-loss drugs include Beta-methyl-phenylethylamine (stimulant to increase fat metabolism), orlistat (blocking dietary fat from getting absorbed), phentermine and sibutramine (appetite suppressants).
Several new drugs and their combinations are currently being worked upon, under animal studies or in clinical trials in humans. Current research is focused on identifying safer and more effective medications to help patients lose excess weight and maintain the weight loss over a long period. Some of the new strategies might include:
- Combining drugs that reduce appetite with those that reduce addiction or craving.
- Stimulating stomach hormones that reduce appetite – Peptide YY (PYY) is a gut hormone that reduces appetite and food intake in both normal and obese patients. Research in mice and humans has shown that obese mice and humans have low circulating PYY, suggesting that a PYY deficiency could be contributing towards obesity in the subject.
- Targeting genes that affect body weight – In January this year, a research team reported five genes that are responsible for larger waist-to-hip ratio in humans. In March, another research group claims to have discovered the functional obesity gene named IRX3. Greater understanding of the genetic involvement towards obesity will allow scientists to work on targeting the necessary genes and surrounding machinery to counter their negative effects.
- Shrinking blood vessels that supply fat cells in the body, preventing their growth.
- Involving bacteria in the gut for weight control.
People whose efforts at losing weight fail through medication or physical exercise turn to weight-loss or bariatric surgery. The common types of bariatric surgeries include gastric bypass surgery, adjustable gastric banding, Sleeve gastrectomy, and duodenal switch surgery. However, most of these surgeries are invasive, irreversible and carry risks.
A new, non-surgical approach is under trial that may offer a more effective and less expensive alternative while also reducing related health issues. Known as the ‘gut sleeve’ procedure, it involves inserting a thin tube through the mouth to reach the stomach. A flexible, non-permeable silicone sleeve is placed near the end of the stomach, reaching the first part of the small intestine. The tube can be even removed at a later date. This procedure would prevent absorption of calories and nutrients from the intestine (intestinal barrier sleeve).
Watch Dr. Sudhir Kalhan, Senior Consultant, Co-Chairman, Institute of Minimal Access Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Delhi explain Malabsorptive Surgery (Bypass Surgery) and Sleeve Gastrectomy.
Technology in form of smartphones and social media can increase an individual’s reach towards correct weight-loss awareness information. Not everyone might be able to afford a dietician’s consultation of a personal training camp, but social applications are available for everyone to use and implement, often free of cost. These can help an obese person in tracking a diet or following a specific workout plan. Some applications that are available online are Diet Assistant – Weight Loss, Ideal Weight, Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, Weight Watchers Mobile, and many more.
Image courtesy of [Grant Cochrane] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“New Obesity Guidelines: Authoritative ‘Roadmap’ to Treatment,” Medscape.com, Lisa Nainggolan, November 12, 2013, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/814202
“Prescription Medications for the Treatment of Obesity,” Weight-control Information Network, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/prescription.htm
“Removable ‘Gut Sleeve’ a Future Weight-Loss Tool?” WebMD.com, Barbara Bronson Gray, http://www.webmd.com/diet/weight-loss-surgery/news/20131023/removable-gut-sleeve-might-become-a-future-weight-loss-tool
“Treating obesity,” NHS.uk, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Obesity/Pages/Treatment.aspx