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Sunday, 15 February 2015 12:53

Study: Can Obesity Be Cured With Just Diet And Exercise?

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Are exercise and diet enough? Now that obesity has been recognized as a disease by the AMA, the medical community is adding its opinion to the mix.

A new study led by Dr. Christopher Ochner of Mt. Sinai in New York concludes that "obesity is a chronic disease with largely biological causes that cannot be cured with just diet and exercise." According to this press release from The Lancet, "Although lifestyle modifications may result in lasting weight loss in individuals who are overweight, in those with chronic obesity, bodyweight seems to become biologically 'stamped in' and defended." But correlation (the known difficulty of maintaining weight loss) does not equal cause (a genetic predisposition to obesity). Perhaps it is unsurprising that Dr. Ochner and the study team claim that "bariatric surgery appears to be the only obesity treatment that works long term."

Correlation does not equal cause.

There are some areas where I agree with the study findings. Mere counseling by a primary care physician to "eat less and exercise more" is the least effective treatment for obesity, as I wrote in this 2013 blog, citing a study by Dr. Adam Tsai. Losing weight and keeping it off is difficult, especially if you are looking for a quick fix that doesn't include lifestyle changes. And some of us are just born big. But that doesn't mean our destiny is to be obese.

The medical community tends to treat symptoms, rather than address causes. Obesity causes many illnesses (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure). It's no secret doctors are lobbied heavily by Big Pharma. But this reactive approach is a poor one, because diabesity (the group of diseases associated with obesity) is largely preventable.

Let's talk common sense. We know that diet and exercise are the main factors in natural weight loss. And we know that keeping the weight off is difficult, especially when we are constantly exposed to the same temptations (family dinners, fast-food restaurants, late-night TV) that contributed to obesity. But it is a mistake to think we are only the product of our genetics. There is no "fat gene."

Lastly, about bariatric surgery (or, "lap-band"). That is an invasive, surgical procedure with associated risks. It should only be considered in the case of severe obesity with health complications. In other words, it is a last resort, not a simple solution. And lap-band surgery does not guarantee long-term weight loss the way lifestyle changes do. Read more about it at the National Institutes of Health.

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