The False View of Nutrition vs Obesity Meds

Still Life with Eggs“Fix the food first. Let’s see if these drugs are actually better than real food.” Those words from Robert Lustig (the sugar is poison guy) capture the dissonance obesity medicines are causing for people who believe that obesity is simply the result of bad food. They’re framing care for people with obesity as an obstacle to the distinct and important mission to improve the nutrition for all the world. The implication is that obesity meds are somehow a threat to good nutrition.

Fix the Food!

Writing for the Guardian, Sarah Boseley tells us “a skinny jab is no quick fix for obesity – and no excuse to let junk food companies off the hook.” Professor Graham MacGregor passionately asserts that we must fix the food industry first:

“The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to let the food industry go on feeding us this rubbish and promoting it … and then give drugs to try and stop the effects of all this unhealthy food? Or are you going to try and stop the food industry doing this?”

Teach Those People to Eat Right

Writing in the Seattle Times, lifestyle medicine physician Yami Cazorla-Lancaster says guidance to offer treatment for childhood obesity is an awful mistake. She says the real need is to teach children the value of good nutrition:

“There has been much pressure on medical organizations to ‘fix’ the problem of increasing body weight, but I believe our perspective and approach has been all wrong.

“Drugs and surgery in young children address just one symptom. However, it tends to undermine root causes, which is what is truly driving our skyrocketing incidence of chronic diseases, conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and early mortality.”

(Note that when someone suggests they know the “root causes” of obesity, they’re deceiving themselves. More on this here.)

Opening Doors to Better Health

Without a doubt, good nutrition is important for good health. Children and adults alike need good patterns for enjoying food that nourishes their bodies. Some people suffer from a lack of knowledge about good nutrition. For others the problem is purely a matter of circumstances. But when medically significant obesity goes untreated, it can get in the way of good nutrition. A person living with a dysregulated appetite in a world of constant food cues has little chance of sustaining healthy eating patterns or achieving goals for better health.

Nutrition is an important factor in many chronic diseases – diabetes, cancer, and heart disease to name a few. Medical nutrition therapy can be helpful for any of those diseases, but it’s a compliment to other medical care. Not a substitute.

The same is true in obesity. For people who need obesity meds, they are not a threat to good nutrition. Rather, they can open the door to that possibility.

Click here for Robert Lustig and Jamy Ard discussing the implications of new obesity medicines. For further perspective on neglecting factors beyond nutrition in obesity, click here.

Still Life with Eggs, painting by Aleksandra Ekster / WikiArt

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May 14, 2023