Obesity: What a Bloated Web It Weaves

The obesity epidemic in this country has more twists and turns than a McDonald's drive-thru. Everyday the news media is blitzed with a different obesity-related headline. Here are two that caught my eye this morning...

According to Reuters, Medtronic Inc., the world's biggest maker of medical devices; is developing weight control implants to help the company tap into the $100 billion obesity market. Debra Sherman reports:

Doctors and companies across the United States are looking at various technologies to combat obesity, including brain stimulation. These methods, though not completely understood by doctors, may be preferable to bariatric surgery since device-based treatments are reversible and have fewer side effects.

Despite failures so far of some devices in clinical trials, companies are pushing ahead, convinced that medical devices hold the key to battling obesity.

Medtronic is trying to develop a battery-powered gastric pacemaker that causes the stomach to contract, sending signals of satiety to the appetite center in the brain, a small start-up also is working with the famed Mayo Clinic on a device that uses electricity to paralyze the stomach, reducing or stopping contractions that churn food as part of the digestion process.

If shocking your innards isn't disturbing enough, what if the obesity epidemic is actually worse then we think? I think this would surprise anyone, but according to AFP it's true. It's seems telephone interviews aren't satisfactory for fat data collection. A new study explains:

The main tool for measuring obesity in the United States is the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which uses telephone interviews with a cross-section of the population to get its data.

But the researchers say that, in these phone interviews, women of all ages often under-report their weight, and young and middle-aged men often over-report their height.

As a result, the calculations for body mass index (BMI)—the yardstick of fat—are being skewed, and the true picture is that America is even chubbier than it thinks.

It seems to me that all these headlines do is make a clear solution murky. In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman explains that weight loss approaches like "gastric electrocution" are too risky and if you really want to slim down the population start eating to live:

The number one health problem in the United States is obesity, and if the current trend continues by the year 2030 all adults in the United States will be obese. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that obesity is associated with a twofold increase in mortality, costing society more than $100 billion per year.1

The NIH has reported that those undergoing surgical treatment for obesity have had substantial nutritional and metabolic complications, gastritis, esophagitis, outlet stenosis, and abdominal hernias. More than 10 percent required another operation to fix problems resulting from the first surgery.2

The Eat to Live promise is threefold: substantial, healthy weight reduction in a short period of time; prevention or reversal of many chronic and life-threatening medical conditions; and a new understanding of food and health that will continue to pay dividends for the rest of your life.

1. Bender, R.C. Trautnet, M. Spraul, and M. Berger. 1998. Assessment of excess mortality in obesity. Am. J. Epidemiol. 147(1):42-48; Wolf, A.M., and G.A. Colditz. 1998. Current estimates of the economic cost of obesity in the United States. Obes. Res. 6(2):97-106.

2. Papakonstantinou, A., P. Alfaras, V. Komessidou, and E. Hadjiyannakis. 1998. Gastrointestinal complications after vertical banded gastroplasty. Obes. Surg. 8 (2): 215-17; Choi, Y., J. Frizzi, A. Foley, and M. Harkabus. 1999. Patient satisfaction and results of vertical banded gastroplasty and gastric bypass. Obes. Surg. 9 (1): 33-35; Guidelines for treatment of adult obesity. 1998. Second edition. Bethesda, Md.: Shape Up America and the American Obesity Association.

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Linda - April 27, 2006 10:51 PM

Amen! I heard something this morning too about some new treatment, not sure if it was this, but probably. WHY doesn't anyone EXPLAIN how to EAT RIGHT?! These tv programs are the worst too. Even the so-called legitimate ones don't outline any plan. It's always, "eat right and exercise." No one knows, apparently, what that is.

And these local news programs and entertainment shows promote and perpetuate poor self body images to women: they will do a sensationalistic, exploitative segment on anorexia, then the rest of the show (and shows) are all praising the great bodies of uber-skinny, unrealistic, (some sick), supermodels or waif actressess!
Not even Oprah gets it right.

Only positive thing I've seen on tv lately is the commercial about not feeding children junk because it causes diabetes. We need more of those!

anet - May 1, 2006 9:13 PM

Boy howdy, Linda! You make a good point!! I was talking to a friend just this week telling me how she was trying to make her diet more healthy. Said she'd quit eating burgers at lunch so I assumed that she was eating veggies...then about an hour later she said she was eating those fried fish/deep fried chicken sandwiches served in her cafeteria!!

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