Top 10 Advances of 2016 in Obesity and Health
If you’re looking for signs of progress in obesity and health, you can find it in 2016. Obesity is a tough nut to crack, so we don’t have breakthroughs and cures to report – yet. What we have is solid advances that will make life and health better for people concerned about obesity. Here’s our top ten.
1. Less Shaming. Progress reducing the reliance on shaming is number one because bias gets in the way of all other progress on obesity. Feeling shamed harm a person’s health and leads to more obesity. Presumptions and biases lead to reliance on ineffective strategies for addressing obesity. Fortunately, we have objective evidence this year of progress toward less shame and blame directed at people living with obesity.
2. Better Reporting. Health reporting about obesity has always skewed toward sensational headlines, headless belly pictures, and simplistic solutions. But 2016 was different, thanks largely to two organizations. In May, the New York Times began serious, solid reporting on obesity with an ongoing series titled “The Science of Fat.” Others are following this lead. Adding to the progress, the Obesity Action Coalition published a gallery of bias-free imagery. As the gallery gains traction, we’re seeing more often depicted as a human condition, not a disembodied aberration.
3. Prevention That Works. In March, CMS announced that Medicare will begin paying the YMCA and other providers to deliver lifestyle coaching known as the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to people at risk for developing diabetes. This represents a huge step forward for delivering preventive care for obesity. Likewise, results from the REACH US project showed how community based prevention can actually reduce the prevalence of obesity in disadvantaged communities.
4. Metabolic Surgery Guidance. The superiority of metabolic surgery for putting type 2 diabetes into remission is becoming unmistakeable. Thus, an international collection of 45 medical groups published a consensus calling for its broader consideration, even in people with mild obesity and type 2 diabetes.
5. New Dietary Guidelines. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans actually debuted in January 2016. Despite all the fussy nitpicking that ensued, these guidelines improved substantially upon the last edition.
6. Declining Sugar Consumption. A red hot focus on sugar has produced significant drops in U.S. consumption of sugar and other sweeteners since 1999 – both in beverages and in total. The new Nutrition Facts label will highlight added sugar in food products and keep the pressure on.
7. Smarter Employers. Wellness programs are getting smarter and steering away from weight-based penalties that serve no purpose other than shifting health costs to people with pre-existing health problems. Employers increasingly recognize that those penalties alienate employees.
8. Cardiovascular Outcomes. Three different treatments for type 2 diabetes have now demonstrated a reduced risk for bad cardiovascular outcomes such as heart attacks and death. All of them – empagliflozin, liraglutide, and semaglutide – work without increasing a person’s weight and may even lead to weight loss. Empagliflozin has just been approved by FDA to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death in patients with both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Semaglutide is a new drug, submitted in early December for FDA approval.
9. Fitness. Broad understanding of the profound health effects of physical activity means that fitness is now on its way to becoming a vital sign. A new scientific statement this year from the American Heart Association could well be a tipping point.
10. Mindfulness. Interest in mindfulness techniques for healthier eating behaviors and obesity care has been growing for years. Now a randomized, controlled trial has shown that mindfulness techniques can add to the the effectiveness of behavioral therapy for obesity.
Despite the need to do much more, 2016 has been a year for some good advances in obesity and health.
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December 26, 2016