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2016’s Hottest Topics Concerning Obesity

To celebrate the New Year, the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) compiled some of the biggest stories about obesity from 2016. Obesity continued to be a hot topic this past year, with articles highlighting (1) the discovery of the correlation between cancer and obesity, (2) the endorsement for bariatric surgery to cure co-morbidities like diabetes, and (3) data about the prevalence of obesity in America, and what can be done to curb its proliferation. These were our favorites here at CBSI:

America’s Obesity Epidemic Hits New High

Dr. Jody W. Zylke and Dr. Howard Bauchner, the Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), observed that though the “obesity epidemic in the United States is now three decades old, and huge investments have been made in research, clinical care, and development of various programs to counteract obesity…few data suggest the epidemic is diminishing” (JAMA, 2016). This opinion was reiterated by many of ASMBS’s articles. Many authors admitted their astonishment at the public’s lack of understanding the causes of obesity. Equally unnerving was the American public’s misrepresentation of the toll of obesity on the lives of so many Americans.

Americans Blame Obesity on Willpower, Despite Evidence It’s Genetic

The mainstream media is beginning to take note of obesity trends in the United States. Though public opinion has commonly misconceived obesity to merely be a deficiency in willpower, the New York Times wrote a compelling article about the inability for the majority of Americans to comprehend the prominence of genetics as the culprit behind obesity. A study conducted by the ASMBS found that nearly 75% of survey participants believed obesity to be directly connected to an improper diet and exercise regime. Obesity researchers found that “the survey painted an alarming picture” because it found that public opinion goes directly “against evidence about the science behind the disease… show[ing] that outdated notions about obesity persist, to the detriment of those affected” (Kolata, 2016).

“It’s frustrating to see doctors and the general public stigmatize patients with obesity and blame these patients, ascribing attributes of laziness or lack of willpower,” said Dr. Donna Ryan, an obesity researcher and professor emerita at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “We would never treat patients with any chronic disease this way. It’s so revealing of a real lack of education and knowledge” (Kolata, 2016). Critics try to criticize the lack of willpower obese individuals have in sticking to a diet regime, though the self-help route is simply not successful for most. The survey found that 94% of all obese participants “had tried to lose weight with diet or exercise, to no avail. A quarter of those people said they had tried five to nine times, and 15 percent said they had tried more than 20 times” (Kolata, 2016).

Just a few years ago, Americans deemed cancer the most serious health threat facing this country, failing to mention obesity completely. Just this past year, researchers discovered a correlation between the two.

How Much a Decade of Obesity Raises your Cancer Risk

After analyzing data from 74,000 women, researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that each decade a woman struggles with obesity as an adult, her likelihood to suffer from cancer increases by a staggering 7% (Howard, 2016). Melina Arnold, of the World Health Organization, explains that this correlation is “biologically plausible, as earlier and longer periods of obesity have been found to increase the risk and severity of hypertension, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, DNA damage and changes in hormone metabolism” (Howard, 2016). These debilitating co-morbidities are horribly incapacitating on their own, and often completely reconciled after bariatric surgery. However, before this study, they had yet to be recognized directly as “key mechanisms increasing also the risk of cancer” (Howard, 2016). The same study found that the risk of developing endometrial cancer in obese women increased by 17% every 10 years.

Bariatric Surgery Can Help People Keep Weight Off Long Term

In past years, researchers have consistently predicted that bariatric surgery patients will be unable to keep the weight they lose off years after surgery. Though an interesting conclusion to draw after only a one to three year study, no one had completed a longer-term research project to confirm these suspicions. Finally, researchers from the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Carolina have “tracked the progress of 1,787 veterans who underwent gastric bypass surgery” over the course of 10 years. They discovered that one year after undergoing surgery, patients lost about 98 pounds. Additionally, after ten years, these patients only gained back 7 pounds on average. Only a mere 3% of participants gained back most of the weight they had lost over a 10-year period.

If you liked these stories, you can read the full ASMBS article here: http://connect.asmbs.org/december-2016-year-in-obesity.html

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact our office (303-861-4505). You may also visit our website at www.coloradobariatric.com. We are here to assist you in achieving your long-term weight loss goals.

Dr. Tom Brown

Colorado Bariatric Surgery Institute