Vintage Clockwork

Finding What Works for Obesity

Finding what works for someone who is dealing with obesity is perhaps the key challenge for successful treatment. Obesity comes in many forms and what works for one person will likely not work for the next person. So finding the right approach for a particular person can be tedious. It can lead people to give up before they find the right approach for themselves.

Diana Thomas presented a promising approach for streamlining the process yesterday at EB 2014 — the cutting edge experimental biology meeting in San Diego. Using advanced mathematical modeling techniques, Thomas developed a method for telling someone in a short period of time whether a particular treatment for obesity is working for them, or not.

Figuring out if what you’re doing is working might be harder than you think. That’s because everybody loses weight at a different rate, depending upon their age, gender, height, and starting weight. What might be a good start for one person, might be so slow for another person that they will ultimately fail. So a fixed criterion simply won’t work for everyone.

Based on age, gender, height, and weight, Thomas’s model determines what the expected change in weight would be and applies a criterion to determine if a treatment is working. With 80% reliability (in the case of women) the model can predict whether the current treatment will be a long-term success after only one month of treatment.

This tool offers the promise of confident decision making — to move on to a better option, or to stick with the current approach — after just one month. Look for it to help obesity medicine doctors more quickly tailor treatment in the years ahead.

Click here to view Thomas’s presentation from EB 2014 and click here for an earlier study that documented the limitation of fixed criteria.

Vintage Clockwork, photograph © Sergei Golyshev / flickr

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