Nashville Warbler

Top 10: The Week That Was ObesityWeek 2018

Scott, Ted, Tony, and CarolineIt’s all over, but the music is still playing. ObesityWeek 2018 came to a close and people dodged snow and plane delays to return home on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So we’ll leave you with a few arbitrary thoughts about some of the highlights.

1. Blackburn Symposium

It was the latest installment in the seemingly endless arguments about diet composition. Folks committed to the low-carb and keto doctrines are taking no prisoners. Anyone who raises inconvenient questions is a problem. “I disagree with everything else that Kevin [Hall] said.” Those words still resonate. Because they remind us of some strong feelings on this subject.

But set aside the distracting emotions and we had an excellent session with some brand new data. Also some important questions about methods. Questions are always welcome here.

2. GLP-1 Science

Daniel Drucker delivered a compelling keynote lecture on emerging science of GLP-1. It’s a complex story of activity in the brain and distant parts of the body. This is science that’s changing how we think about obesity. It also may bring some really big breakthroughs in obesity meds.

3. Pediatric Obesity Care

We’ve endured decades of empty talk about childhood obesity. All that talk has done nothing to help five million kids facing severe obesity. Mostly, they get no help from healthcare providers. But data presented at ObesityWeek 2018 tells us this will change.

Aaron Kelly described the gap and some intensive efforts to fill it. One answer is better medicines for kids who need them. Another answer is smarter use of the tools we have for surgical treatment.

Along that line of thinking, Aayed Alqahtani presented impressive data on gastric sleeves in 2,019 children and adolescents. Nine years of follow-up. The biggest problem? A fifth of the patients reported problems with GERD. Many other papers and presentations explored the subject. But Alqahtani’s data made a lasting impression.

4. Food Insecurity, Poverty, and Stress

A Wednesday session on poverty and stress really lived up to its title – novel perspectives. Fresh data, with a fresh perspective on an old subject. By digging deeper to understand the physical effects of food insecurity and poverty, we can have better hope for solutions. Well-informed solutions.

5. First Person Perspectives

Historically, the lived experience with obesity has been absent in obesity meetings. But not this year at ObesityWeek. OAC chair Michelle Vicari and board member Patricia Nece were everywhere. But they weren’t the only ones. A whole host of people served to remind that this is a disease with a profound impact on the quality of very many lives.

6. Awards

Rebecca Puhl’s award for scientific achievement gives us joy. Right now, many people are working on the problem of bias and stigma. But that has not always been true. Puhl deserves a big measure of credit for the changes we’ve seen. “Full steam ahead,” she told us in her award lecture. “Our greatest successes are to come.”

Many other very worthy people received richly deserved recognition. However, the Ethan Sims Young Investigator award was especially memorable. Five nominees presented their work. It ended in a tie between “SSIBlings” – Alyssa Smethers and Samatha Fortin.

7. Cardiovascular Outcomes

Steven Nissen gave a compelling keynote presentation. But he also raised a good many questions leaving people unsettled. However, new data on cardiovascular outcomes offered a good counterbalance. For instance, Ali Aminian presented data showing that bariatric surgery might cut the risk of death in half for patients who develop heart failure. Other presentations addressed the risk of atrial fibrillation and effects on cardiovascular biomarkers.

The progress is notable, but gaps remain.

8. Obesity Medicine and Transdisciplinary Care

We’ve crossed the milestone of regarding obesity as a chronic disease all over the world. Obesity medicine is beginning to flourish in the U.S. and will likely spread. The next important milestone might well be developing standards for transdisciplinary care. Surgeons can’t do it alone. They already work in teams.

But the circle will grow wider. This fact was evident in sessions on integrating obesity medicine in surgical programs and minding the gaps between surgery and medicine.

9. The Energizer Bunnies of Social Media

Everywhere we turned, our friends Neil Floch, Zaher Toumi, Paul Davidson, and an army of social media stars were keeping us informed. What research is shining? What’s on everyone’s mind? #OW2018 generated many thousands of tweets and 58 million impressions. Amazing.

10. Nerd Night, Beer, and Science

ObesityWeek had an extra twist this year. Nerd Night was part stand up comedy, part science. Where else can you learn about intelligent lab records, stress of being Hispanic, racing cars, SNPs and essspresso (extra “s” intentional)? All while drinking beers or whatever. OW also dished basic science and beer at lightning talks on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some might argue a better way to learn? Nah. We’ll see you next year.

Nashville Warbler, watercolor by John James Audobon / WikiArt

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November 17, 2018

4 Responses to “Top 10: The Week That Was ObesityWeek 2018”

  1. November 17, 2018 at 9:24 am, Allen Browne said:


    Excellent summary. Thanks! See you there next year!


    • November 17, 2018 at 12:09 pm, Ted said:

      Or sooner, I hope, Allen. You’re an inspiration!

  2. November 19, 2018 at 5:46 pm, Adam Gilden Tsai said:

    Thank you Ted for all the work you do to maintain this website and send out these daily e-mails. It benefits so many people.

    • November 19, 2018 at 6:57 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Adam. I’m really glad it’s useful.