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A new way to tackle obesity beyond diet and exercise

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Experts say more than diet and exercise needed to fight obesity.

Results of new research suggests obesity treatment should take on a new focus. Suggested interventions to help us sustain weight loss need a more personal touch.


Sustaining weight loss is difficult and 80 to 95 percent of people regain extra pounds after they are lost. A panel of obesity experts publishing in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology suggest the problem with current obesity treatment is that it doesn't take into account important factors that exercise and diet fail to address.

Why calorie restriction and exercise fail

Obesity, now declared a disease, is on the rise. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity among children has tripled from one generation ago.

Studies have shown obesity in childhood can lead to major health problems in adulthood. Obese adults are at risk for costly and devastating chronic illnesses including type-2 diabetes, various types of cancers, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.

The study authors contend chronic obesity causes the body to adapt to calorie restriction as a protective mechanism from starvation.

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"Irrespective of starting weight, caloric restriction triggers several biological adaptations designed to prevent starvation. These adaptations might be potent enough to undermine the long-term effectiveness of lifestyle modification in most individuals with obesity, particularly in an environment that promotes energy overconsumption," the authors write.

Focus on reasons for obesity

According to the researchers, diet and exercise aren't enough for sustained weight loss. Other factors that must be considered include a person's genetic make-up, combined with psychological causes for obesity and other factors. Safe weight loss medications, which don't currently exist, or bariatric surgery might be more successful for a chronically obese person.

Understanding the underlying causes of obesity will take more exploration, as will finding safe weight loss medications. The study authors say diet and exercise are only part of solution for tackling America's expanding waistlines.

"Treating obesity seriously: when recommendations for lifestyle change confront biological adaptations"
Christopher N Ochneremail, Adam G Tsai, Robert F Kushner, Thomas A Wadden
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00009-1

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