A Baton Rouge-area researcher is offering guidance to doctors who wish to help patients lose weight as part of their New Year's resolutions.
Dr. Steven B. Heymsfield, a professor of medicine at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center, is the lead author of an article published this month in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine that reviews years of weight-loss studies to determine which treatments are most effective.
For many, obesity is a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment, according to a news release from Pennington, and most patients do not receive the appropriate treatments needed to lose a healthy amount of weight.
"The increased marketing and consumption of large portions of high calorie, highly palatable foods has expanded our nation’s waistline," Heymsfield said in the news release, "as has the decreased physical activity required by most jobs and leisure-time activities, as compared with 50 years ago.”
The review article in the journal analyzes data from years of weight-loss studies and finds that many obese and overweight patients need additional help beyond a doctor's advice to change their lifestyles. Obesity is often caused by a genetic tendency, Heymsfield said, and more research is needed to understand the complex interaction of these genes.
“Eleven rare forms of obesity, each attributable to a single gene mutation, have now been identified,” he said.
Louisiana has the highest adult obesity rate in the country, according to data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's State of Obesity study, which finds that 36 percent of adults in the state are considered obese.
To combat obesity, Heymsfield and the report's other authors found that most patients would benefit from a high-intensity behavioral program, which includes regular dietary counseling sessions with a dietitian or other medical professional. These sessions are available at hospitals and clinics, as well as local YMCAs, and are proven to help patients lose 5 to 8 percent of their weight in six months, according to the article.
For patients who need additional help losing weight, medicines approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration may be necessary. But these drugs are prescribed less frequently than many would expect, given the country's obesity epidemic, the news release said.
For those with severe obesity, weight-loss surgery may be the best option.
A fraction of patients dealing with obesity receive these treatments, Heymsfield and the study's other authors found. Many doctors lack the training needed to treat obesity, they said, and much of the medical field has been slow to view obesity as a chronic disease. Also, health insurance does not always cover the full range of treatments patients need.