Moving Parallel to the Gap

Critical Gap in Understanding the Biology of Obesity

Mind/the/GapThe cover story in the new issue of Health Management call attention to our critical gap in understanding the biology of obesity. On the eve of ObesityWeek 2014, it’s appropriate that it’s authored by Rachel Batterham — who will be awarded the 2014 Lilly Scientific Achievement Award there — along with two of her colleagues, Andrea Pucci and Sean Manning. They point out that:

Government strategies aimed at reducing the unprecedented levels of obesity have been largely unsuccessful to date. Only in 2013 the American Medical Association (AMA) identified the necessity for prevention and medical interventions in the obesity field, suggesting that clinicians are also lagging behind in the fight to halt the obesity epidemic.

After a review of the global scope and impact of obesity, they explore the emerging understanding of the GI tract as the body’s largest endocrine organ. They review benefits and limits of current treatment options for obesity and then go on to say:

In the context of the complexity of energy balance, we envisage that development of novel medical approaches for treating obesity is likely to require a better understanding of the biology of genetic risk as well as gaining insights into the successes of bariatric surgery.

This lead article is paired with five other pieces covering a wide range in obesity: bariatric surgery, diagnostic imaging, policy, bias, and an editorial by Christine Trimmer of the World Obesity Federation.

The inescapable conclusion is that we know a tiny fraction of what we need to reverse the excess of obesity. Policymakers and crusaders who tell you otherwise should be viewed with suspicion.

Watch this space in the coming week for updates from ObesityWeek 2014 where the world’s best minds will meet to share their progress and plan to close this critical gap.

Click here to access this special issue of Health Management.

Moving Parallel to the Gap, photograph © westpark / flickr

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3 Responses to “Critical Gap in Understanding the Biology of Obesity”

  1. October 28, 2014 at 6:48 am, Mary-Jo said:

    So glad this information making its way to the fore. In my opinion, the only way to stop obesity epidemic is to much more heavily focus on pediatric population — to ‘nip it in the bud’ before (patho)physiological, biological, neurological, emotional, psychosocial changes take too firm a hold on an individual. Once the body is ‘primed’ to be obese, recidivism and inability to achieve healthy weight/fat state is inevitable or highly exceptional. If we can focus on programs and treatments that effectively target children, there is hope. I had proposed to the CDC and to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics an idea to investigate the effects of having RDNs in every school or even school district specifically to work with children and their families to do what it takes to prevent children from getting obese or to catch children who were already overweight/obese from staying obese. My proposal was not just educational in nature (like Let’s Move) or about the foodservice in schools, but more a ‘therapeutic dietitian’ seeing individual children and their families, if necessary; conducting group sessions, if that worked well (as does with teenagers and pre-teens), educating and even working with staff who have issues. I thought it would be helpful for monitoring purposes, too (being able to monitor a person for up to 12 years! what an ideal situation!). Sadly, the CDC told me this idea was ‘too political’ and the AND said they were already busy with school nutrition initiatives. But, I’ve yet to see any real effectiveness to anything that’s now in place. Maybe a ‘therapeutic dietitian’ working in schools would also be ineffective, but I still think it’s worth studying!

    • October 28, 2014 at 9:45 am, Ted said:

      Thanks for posting your thoughts, Mary Jo. The American Academy of Pediatrics is doing some interesting work on childhood obesity that’s a step up from what’s come before.

    • October 28, 2014 at 9:45 am, Ted said:

      Thanks for posting your thoughts, Mary Jo. The American Academy of Pediatrics is doing some interesting work on childhood obesity that’s a step up from what’s come before.