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Has Obesity Inquiry Failed?

I oft come across the declaration that obesity enquiry has failed because it hasn't stopped the global increment inward obesity rates.  According to this argument, nosotros require to re-think our approach to obesity enquiry because the electrical current approach only isn't working.

Grant funding for obesity enquiry keeps increasing inward the US, too the prevalence of obesity also keeps increasing*.  What gives?  Maybe if nosotros only scrapped the whole endeavor we'd last amend off.

Let's accept a closer await at this declaration too reckon how it holds up.

Why Do Research?

There are 2 key reasons why nosotros arrive at research:
  1. To assemble accurate data almost the natural world.  This data is intrinsically valuable because nosotros similar knowing how the globe works, too it may eventually lead hold practical value that's non forthwith obvious.
  2. Practical applications.  We desire to solve problems too improve our lives.
If nosotros desire to decide whether or non obesity enquiry has failed, nosotros should evaluate it using those 2 metrics.

Has Obesity Research Gathered Accurate Information?

By this metric, at that topographic point tin last no inquiry that obesity enquiry has been a smashing success.  Starting every bit far dorsum every bit the 1700s**, too accelerating speedily until today, researchers lead hold uncovered a tremendous amount of data almost the human trunk that relates to obesity-- from digestion, to the thermodynamics of unloose energy balance, to the physiology too endocrinology of unloose energy rule yesteryear the body, to the neurobiology of appetite too trunk fatty regulation, to the psychology of eating behavior.  

We sympathize many of the hormones too neural signals that regulate the body's exercise too storage of fats, carbohydrates, too proteins.  We sympathize many (probably most) of the primary pathways that regulate appetite.  Researchers similar Scott Sternson, Brad Lowell, too Richard Palmiter are dissecting the neural circuits of appetite downward to the cellular too molecular level-- a feat that would lead hold been inconceivable fifty years ago.  

We sympathize the deport on of a release of nutrient properties on nutrient alternative too intake.  We sympathize how the nutrient surroundings impacts eating.  We've identified countless differences betwixt obese too lean people, including inward genetics, neurobiology, energetics, metabolism, endocrinology, too behavior.

Collectively, the data we've gathered forms a massive, highly buttressed trunk of noesis that meshes seamlessly amongst related fields of science.  Some of the details are belike wrong, but the likelihood that there's something fundamentally incorrect amongst the whole edifice, is, inward my opinion, about nil.  

The electrical current literature contains to a greater extent than than plenty evidence to course of report a reasonable working model that explains the obesity epidemic.  But explaining isn't the same every bit doing something almost it.

Has Obesity Research Delivered Practical Value?

In an ideal world, obesity researchers would lead hold discovered techniques for easily preventing too reversing obesity.  Similar to how researchers identified the nutritional campaign of pellagra (niacin deficiency) too virtually eliminated the epidemic amongst vitamin fortification inward the early on 20th century, perhaps nosotros mightiness lead hold identified some agricultural chemic that's behind it all, too eliminated it.  Case closed, peachy work, high five, let's telephone telephone it a day.

Clearly, that hasn't happened.  Despite the mountains of data we've accumulated, nosotros soundless lead hold an obesity epidemic, too no slow cures.

On the other hand, researchers have genuinely identified a release of effective techniques for preventing too reversing obesity.  The simplest of these is calorie restriction.  A release of tightly controlled studies demo that calorie intake has a powerful influence on trunk fatness.  The work amongst restricting calories isn't that it's ineffective-- inward fact, it's 100 per centum effective.  The work is that it's difficult to implement too maintain.  The unconscious energy-regulating parts of the encephalon cope dorsum yesteryear increasing hunger too reducing the release of calories expended, too ingrained preferences too habits undermine long-term adherence to the restriction.  Increasing calorie expenditure via practise has similar effects.

H5N1 large proportion of obesity enquiry has been dedicated to trying to figure out ways to larn people to swallow fewer calories.  Countless diets too behavioral strategies lead hold been tested inward randomized controlled trials.  If there's ane consistent finding that has emerged from these studies, it's that it's exceedingly hard to larn people to modify their demeanour sustainably, peculiarly when the modify involves a diet.  We know people lose fatty when they swallow less, but it's hard to larn them to arrive at so, regardless of the strategy.  That existence said, some strategies are clearly to a greater extent than effective than others.

Another effective technique is bariatric (weight loss) surgery.  The Roux-en-Y too sleeve gastrectomy procedures campaign remarkable fatty loss too resolution of type 2 diabetes-- far superior to whatsoever other method that has always been tested inward free-living people.  This isn't because people can't agree every bit much nutrient inward their stomachs, too it also isn't because to a greater extent than calories destination upward inward the toilet.  It seems to relate to (poorly understood) alterations inward the communication lines betwixt the gut too the brain.  The work amongst bariatric surgical physical care for isn't that it doesn't work, too it isn't that it's unsafe***-- the work is that most people don't desire to lead hold major surgical physical care for on their digestive tract, too it's alone available for extreme cases.  Researchers are currently trying to sympathize the mechanisms of bariatric surgical physical care for too then nosotros tin mimic it without surgery, too they've made some encouraging progress.

Research has also uncovered a release of effective anti-obesity drugs.  One of the earliest was 2,4-dinitrophenol, which causes the mitochondria to pump out rut instead of chemic energy, wasting calories.  It's effective drug but it caused besides many deaths due to overheating.  Apparently some bodybuilders soundless exercise it, illegally.

In recent decades, a release of drugs were developed that deed on the encephalon pathways that regulate appetite.  You may lead hold heard of fen-phen (fenfluramine/phentermine), an effective weight loss combo that increases monoamine neurotransmitter (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine) levels inward the brain.  Fen-phen was taken off the the States marketplace position inward 1997 due to negative side effects-- primarily its powerfulness to promote see valve disease.

Rimonabant is basically "reverse marijuana", acting to block the same receptor that gives people the marijuana munchies.  This pathway regulates appetite too pleasure.  It was an effective weight loss drug, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it had adverse psychological effects including increased suicide rates.

Currently, nosotros lead hold 3 obesity drugs approved for the the States market, too to a greater extent than inward the pipeline.  Lorcaserin acts on an appetite circuit inward the brain, too seems fairly innocuous, but its final result is pretty modest.  Phentermine/topiramate (Qsymia) acts on appetite too vantage centers too is a fairly effective drug, but it has important negative side effects.  Orlistat blocks almost 1/3 of fatty digestion too then that some of it ends upward inward the toilet.  It's relatively prophylactic but the results are modest.

Liraglutide is a drug that has done good inward clinical trials of obesity treatment.  Novo Nordisk has filed for FDA blessing of the drug for obesity handling purposes.  It's already approved for the handling of type 2 diabetes.  It mimics a natural satiety (and insulin-secretion) constituent called GLP-1.  It's relatively prophylactic every bit far every bit nosotros know, too some of its known side effects are genuinely positive, but unfortunately it's expensive too it has to last injected daily.  It may last available for obesity therapy relatively soon.

Contrave (bupropion/naltrexone) is some other drug that may gain FDA blessing soon.  It acts on appetite too vantage centers inward the brain, too its effectiveness seems to last somewhere betwixt lorcaserin too phentermine/topiramate.

It's clear that obesity enquiry has uncovered a release of effective obesity therapies.  At a minimum, the effectiveness of these treatments demonstrates that our electrical current scientific models of obesity are correct.  Yet all of them lead hold major drawbacks, either related to express effectiveness or negative side effects.  None are the super easy, 100 per centum effective magic bullet nosotros would like.  Why not?

The argue nosotros don't lead hold a magic bullet is that obesity is a hard problem.  Preventing too treating obesity agency fighting the natural vogue of the human trunk too heed inward the context of our electrical current culture.  You tin enjoin people to swallow less sugar, white flour, added fats, too processed foods inward general, but alone a minority of people volition genuinely alter their demeanour significantly every bit a result.  This is because people don't swallow junk nutrient for its wellness benefits-- they swallow it because they similar it, it's cheap, too it's readily available (obesity isn't caused yesteryear eating junk nutrient inward all individuals, but it is a major campaign on a population level).  Obesity is much to a greater extent than challenging than a uncomplicated infectious agent or nutritional deficiency that tin last readily treated.

Since obesity is largely related to encephalon activity, nosotros typically elbow grease to care for it using drugs targeted to the brain.  These approaches work, but they're express yesteryear the fact that the encephalon is extremely complex, it's protected yesteryear the blood-brain barrier, too drugs are typically non specific plenty to hitting the relevant circuits without collateral damage.  Bathing the entire encephalon inward a drug is a sledgehammer approach that tends to last besides non-specific for therapeutic purposes, although at that topographic point are occasional exceptions****.

Personally I retrieve it's inevitable that we'll prepare amend obesity therapies, but these volition lead hold to swim upstream against our increasingly fattening culture.

Has Obesity Research Failed?

I promise it's clear that obesity enquiry has non failed-- it has produced huge amounts of scientifically robust information, too a release of effective therapies.  None of these therapies are the magic bullet nosotros wishing they were, yet there's no argue to believe this is because our agreement of obesity is fundamentally flawed.

The argue nosotros don't lead hold a magic bullet is that obesity is a tough work to solve.  Researchers tin position causes, but they can't forcefulness people to modify their lives.  They tin prepare effective treatments, but these tend to toll a lot of coin and/or lead hold serious drawbacks.

Measuring the success of obesity enquiry inward damage of its powerfulness to preclude or contrary the obesity epidemic is setting an impossibly high standard.  In a sense, I believe this is the betoken of the argument.  By setting an impossibly high measure too rejecting the land every bit a whole, this allows people to excuse themselves from the fourth dimension too elbow grease required to sympathize the subject.


* Although NIH funding inward general, including for obesity research, has dropped inward recent years.  Hopefully that vogue volition contrary every bit the economic scheme bounces back.

** Antoine de Lavoisier was ane of the get-go researchers to contribute meaningfully to the modern agreement of obesity.

*** There is a important gamble of surgical complications too decease from bariatric surgery, even too then the complications too decease gamble of remaining extremely obese are much higher.  Therefore, relative to remaining extremely obese, bariatric surgical physical care for is really safe.

**** There are many therapeutic drugs that deed successfully inward the brain.  I exercise the give-and-take "occasionally" because for every drug that is currently inward therapeutic exercise inward humans, at that topographic point are belike hundreds that didn't brand the cut.  Among those that work, most are blunt tools.
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