Medicalizing Obesity

September 8, 2016

The Argument for the Rational Use of Prescription Medications for Treating Obesity

From a report in 2009, Obesity in the United States carried the hefty price tag of $147 billion per year in direct medical costs, just over 9 percent of all medical spending. People who are obese spend almost $1,500 more each year on health care — about 41 percent more than an average-weight person. The biggest driver of these excess costs are prescription drugs, the author said.

However, virtually none of these prescriptions were for the treatment of Obesity. Rather, they were for treating the health consequences, or co-morbidities of Obesity such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Osteoarthritis just to mention a few.The good news is, effective and safe prescription medicines for treating Obesity have been in existence for several decades. The not so good news is that very few of these medications are actually approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating obesity, and those that are FDA approved are rarely prescribed by US physicians. As preposterous as this seems in light of the burden of the the primary obstacle to Medicalizing Obesity is the Medical Establishment. For example, it was not until July 2013 that the American Medical Association (AMA) even recognized Obesity as a disease. In October of 2010 the FDA pulled the Obesity medication, Meridia (Sibutramine) from the market because in some patients it caused a rise in blood pressure and in patients with pre-existing coronary artery disease, Meridia caused heart attacks, some of which were fatal. While, high blood pressure or a fatal heart attacks are by no means minor risks, they are risks that can easily be avoided by any prescribing physician by following standard-of-care practices, such as monitoring of Blood Pressure and the appropriate screening for Coronary Artery Disease in at-risk populations. Furthermore, the majority of patients that experienced greater than a 5% reduction in their body weight while on Meridia enjoyed a net lowering in their blood pressure. The group of people prescribed Meridia are the same group with the highest risk for developing coronary artery disease, and physicians worth their weight in salt can fully assess their patients for coronary disease before, as well as closely monitor their patients’ blood pressure after prescribing Meridia for their patients. Apparently missing from the debate over withdrawing Meridia from the market place was consideration of the outcome of doing nothing about Obesity, which is as clear-cut a case of medical negligence if there ever was one. To add insult to injury, the medication Sudafed (psuedoephedrine), an over the counter decongestant, taken by millions of Americans every day, has a similar risk as Meridia for raising blood pressure and causing heart attacks in people with pre-existing Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Seemingly, according to the FDA the benefits of clearing our stuffy noses warrants such risks while a clinically significant reduction in our body weight does not. To further illustrate the Medical Establishment’s perspective on Obesity, Aspirin which was first introduced to the marketplace by the Bayer Corporation in 1905, and the myriad of other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, that have proliferated since, cause 7,500 deaths per year in the US from gastrointestinal hemorrhage, most of which occurred spontaneously without prior warning. Why is there no issue within the Medical Establishment about the risks of these medications, which most of the time they are prescribed it is done so to treat the co-morbidities of Obesity? Yet if a medication that actually treats Obesity poses any of these same risks, it is pulled from the market? According to the prevailing perspective in the Medical Establishment, if you have pain and fever and happen to be obese the advice you will likely get from your doctor, will be to take two aspirins and call her after you become a contestant on The Biggest Loser. Clearly this is an irrational perspective and the time for a change is long overdue. In my next post, I am going to do my first comprehensive update since 2005 on the current medications available to treat the disease of Obesity, so please stay tuned.

End Post

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist-Corporate Wellness Consultant

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at,

Optimal Performance MD LLC

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Mitchell R. Weisberg, M.D., M.P. 

Forward

Over the next several posts, I am going to update a document I first wrote in October 2006. My primary mission is to expose my readers, whether healthcare providers or laypersons, to the current state of the medical solutions for Obesity. Whenever I discuss the current medical approach to any aspect of the human condition, I replace the common phrase “state of the art”, with “state of our ignorance”. I want my readers to realize as I do, that nearly as soon as I understand and apply the current state of the medical science it becomes outdated if not completely obsolete, which is exactly as I want it to be. With everything I have ever learned about human health and medicine, there is one thing about which I will always be certain; we can always be doing better than what we are now. With that as my only disclaimer, I hope you find this update informative and useful.

Obesity the disease

If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution. Albert Einstein

So, while a medical evaluation of Obesity may begin with calculating a patient’s Body Mass Index, it certainly does not end there. To properly treat Obesity, one must first properly diagnose obesity, and this cannot be accomplished with a scale or a mirror. To know whether they are obese (as defined here), most Americans need a thorough history and physical examination by a competent healthcare professional. Only then can they seek solutions, medical or otherwise.

In the posts that will follow, I will show how the definition of Obesity, as I laid it out here, serves as a guide in the medical evaluation (history, physical examination and ancillary testing) and ultimately the medical treatment of Obesity.

End Post

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist-Corporate Wellness Consultant

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at,

Optimal Performance MD LLC

 

MEDICALIZING OBESITY

November 21, 2014

The Argument in support of the Rational Use of Prescription Medications

for

Treating Obesity

In  a 2009 report , Obesity in the United States carried the hefty price tag of $147 billion per year in direct medical costs, just over 9 percent of all medical spending. People who are obese spend almost $1,500 more each year on health care — about 41 percent more than an average-weight person. The biggest driver of these excess costs are prescription drugs, the author said. What that author did not say but this author believes is the upshot from this report is that virtually none of these medicines were prescribed to treat Obesity. Rather, they were prescribed to treat the health consequences (co-morbidities) of Obesity such as Diabetes, Hypertension and Osteoarthritis to mention a few. The good news is, effective and safe prescription medicines for treating Obesity have been in existence for several decades. The not so good news is that very few of these medications are actually approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating obesity, and those that are FDA approved are rarely prescribed by US physicians.

As preposterous as it seems in light of this information about its medical costs,  the biggest obstacle to Medicalizing Obesity is the Medical Establishment. For starters, it was as recently as July 2013 that the American Medical Association (AMA) first officially recognized Obesity as a disease. For another example, in October of 2010 the FDA pulled the Obesity medication, Meridia (Sibutramine) from the market because in some patients it caused a rise in blood pressure and in some patients with pre-existing coronary artery disease, Meridia caused heart attacks, some of which were fatal. While high blood pressure and fatal heart attacks are by no means minor risks, they are risks that can be significantly reduced when prescribing physicians practice within the “standard-of-care” such as carefully screening their patients for heart disease before prescribing Meridia and closely monitoring their patients’ blood pressures after they start taking the medication. These are already firmly established practice standards for the general medical care of Obese patients regardless if they are intending to start on a weight loss medicine. Most conspicuous by its absence from the debate over removing Meridia from the marketplace was any consideration of the benefits of Meridia or the risks of not treating Obesity.

Contrast the Meridia story with that of Sudafed (pseudoephedrine), the over-the-counter decongestant taken by millions of Americans every day, which has similar pharmacologic properties as well as risks as Meridia for raising blood pressure and causing heart attacks in some people with pre-existing Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Seemingly, according to the FDA the benefits of clearing our stuffy noses warrants us taking such risks while a clinically significant reduction in our body weight does not.

As a last example of the Medical Establishments “Hypocritical Oath” when it comes to Obesity is aspirin, brought to the US marketplace by Bayer in 1905 and the proliferation of the myriad other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that followed. A rarely mentioned fact is that this class of medications, available without a prescription, causes 7,500 deaths annually in the US, primarily from gastrointestinal hemorrhage, most of which occur spontaneously without warning. Why isn’t the FDA suggesting we take these medicines off the market, while a medicine that actually treats Obesity that carries the same and even lower risks,  is pulled from the market? Adding to the irony, the primary reason people take NSAIDs is for the treatment of the co-morbid condition of Osteoarthritis, a co-morbid condition of Obesity. So, according to the prevailing perspective of the Medical Establishment if you are an Obese patient and you call your “Care Provider” because you are suffering from arthritis pain, the advice you will likely be given is, “take two aspirin and call me when you are a contestant on The Biggest Loser.

As you may have noticed, this author’s primary argument in support of the rational use of prescription medications for the treatment obesity is their irrational disuse. Clearly the time for changing this antiquated perspective is long overdue. In my next post, I am giving my first comprehensive update since 2006   on the current prescription medicines for the treatment of the disease, Obesity, so please stay tuned.

End Post

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist-Corporate Wellness Consultant

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at,

Optimal Performance MD LLC

F²C³

My Nutrition and Fitness Recommendations with a Mission:

Optimal Performance

Based on the Principles of Cellular Metabolism and Neuroscience

F²-Fiber and Frequency is my formula for how to eat based upon the principles of cellular metabolism and neuroscience

  • Eat upon awakening in the morning: this does not mean that we have to cook or go out for breakfast; it’s as simple as opening an energy bar or pouring cereal and skim milk into a cup and drinking it.
  • Eat frequently: Eat at least at least 4 and as many as 6 times per day. Do not let 3 hours go by where you do not eat. The evidence shows that when we eat in response to being famished that we will consume more calories than if we eat before getting hungry. In addition, based on the principles that govern the process of cellular metabolism by the time that we feel hungry our cells’ efficiency at converting our nutrients into energy that we can actually use goes down and you know what that means? The cells will store more of the food that we eat as fat.
  • Consume 4 to 6 grams of Fiber each time that you eat:Fiber while classified as a carbohydrate, in the pure sense, is not a nutrient at all in that the human intestine does not have the necessary enzyme for absorbing fiber into the blood stream. Therefore, it is not metabolized, or used as a source of energy for life processes. However, due to its unique properties, fiber slows down the absorption rate of food from the intestines into the blood stream . This is why it is essential to consume fiber every time that we eat; as a result of this slower rate of absorption, the 40 trillion cells that make up our bodies can more efficiently capture the energy (calories) from the food that we eat for activities such as thinking, moving, growing our bones, our hair and our skin and leaving less total calories to store in our bodies in the form of fat. In addition, by not being absorbed and remaining in our digestive tracts, fiber enhances satiety, making us feel fuller from less food.

When people on fiber deficient diets gradually increase their fiber intake to the recommended level of 25 grams per day, they drop weight, they can sustain this weight loss, improve their blood levels of sugar and cholesterol, cut their risk of heart disease, improve their bowel regularity and cut their risk of developing Diverticulitis of the colon. 1 Pretty impressive effects for something that never even gets inside the human body. Isn’t it nice, for once that someone is telling you what you should eat instead of what you should not eat?

  • Eat before you are hungry! This sounds counterintuitive, and will make many dietitians cringe but, compare the task of learning to eat before you are hungry to the task of trying to not eat when you are hungry. It is a behavioral change that is readily achievable, and is more in synch with how our cells use energy most efficiently. In fact, hunger puts us off n a sub-optimal functional state in which we are more prone to make mistakes and to fly the handle. Eating often enough to preëmpt hunger, however, will keep your performance and your mood on a more even keel. Numerous studies have demonstrated that when people eat before they are hungry they eat fewer calories as compared to when they eat in response to being hungry.* In addition, more frequent eating leads to a higher rate of efficiency of our cellular metabolism, making it more likely that the food that we eat becomes energy used by our bodies and not stored as fat around our bodies. *

Sources of Fiber: Look at the nutrients labels and check out what you are getting. Here are my general guidance with a few personal recommendations:

  • Whole Grain Cereals: 3 to 6 grams of fiber per serving: the entire line of Kashi cereals ; there are many other Cereals on the market that have 3 to 6 grams of fiber per serving
  • Whole Grain Breads: 2 to 4 grams of fiber per slice.
  • Fruits and Vegetables in general are good sources of fiber.
  • Soy, which is a vegetable, is high in protein as well as fiber. Here are some soy recommendations:
  1. Edamame; try Melissa’s brand. It is in the frozen section. Microwave it for 2 minutes and add course kosher salt; it’s awesome.
  2. Boca Brand of burgers and sausages (it’s all soy and actually tastes great)
  3. Morning Star is another brand of the faux meat products (and I am not a vegetarian)
  • Trail Mixes: with 5 grams of fiber per serving these are extremely practical because of how portable they are. Trail mixes can vary in their content quite a bit; some are more candy than anything else. Just check the nutrient content for the  and go for it. This is something you can keep in the car at your desk in backpacks, purses, brief cases, etc.
  • Energy Bars: 3 to 6 grams of fiber per serving.
  1. Cliff Bars
  2. Kashi GoLean
  3. Many others

Here is a plug for Starbucks because they seem to get it. They have prepackaged trays such as their protein breakfast with apple, peanut butter, whole wheat bagel, hardboiled egg, cheeses and grapes.They make their sandwiches  on high fiber bread. They sell individual small packages of trail mixes. While on the pricey side, they deserve credit for offering truly healthy food.

What follows are some of the prerequisite habits you will need to develop to successfully follow the F² formula:

  1. Go grocery shopping at least once per week
    • Buy foods that are portable and contain  3 to 6 grams of fiber per serving.  to keep up its freshness, you can take or store it anywhere including in your car.
    • Make sure you buy enough to last you the entire week.
  2. Never be more than an arm’s length away from your food.
    • Keep it in your desk drawer, purse, backpack, briefcase, coat pocket and glove compartment.
  3. Find your new hunger equivalent
    • If we eat only when we are hungry we will always be in one of two states, famished or full; and, neither one is compatible with optimal functioning.
    • Eat for optimal function. The next time you have to read an e-mail twice or notice you are having a little difficulty keeping focused, eat something. Our function deteriorates before we feel hunger and we should respond to these functional signals by eating, well before we feel hunger. Start paying attention to your performance level and when you sense a slight drop, time to re-fuel. Find your new hunger equivalent, respond to it and you will start eating small amounts often, especially if you add fiber each time that you eat.

F² in summary: Eat 4 to 6 times per day and eat 4 to 6 grams of fiber each time that you eat. If you make   your focus, you will see that your dietary fats, carbohydrates and proteins will fall into place, your function (performance) and mood will improve and, the bathroom scale will most definitely do the right thing. Now let’s move on to my formula for fitness, .

C³-Cardio, Core and Cortical is my formula for how to move based upon the principles of cellular metabolism and neuroscience

Introduction:

Just as we eliminated the word, diet from our vocabulary because of its association with self deprivation, we must similarly excommunicate the word, exercise for its association with, self torture. In its place, I suggest, fitness or physical activity. Physical activity is no different from an essential nutrient of which we need our minimal daily need for achieving our optimal performance. Just as we eat primarily to perform optimally, not to lose weight, we need to merge physical activity into our daily lives for the same purpose. Just as it states in Chapter One of any Physics textbook,  the first step in getting the movement we need, we must first overcome our inertiafor which I recommend the following:

  • Drop the all or nothing approach to fitness. Our not having the time to get to the health club for ninety minutes is not a reason for us to be sedentary.
  • Get 10 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as calisthenics or taking a brisk walk, within the first 60 minutes of waking up in the morning.
  • Incorporate physical activity into you activities of daily living. For instance, turn  shower time into fitness time.
  • Instead of deluding ourselves into thinking we have 2 hours to go to the health club, here is a radical alternative; for every hour throughout the day that we are sedentary, such as sitting at work or school, we get 3 to 5 minutes of physical activity.
  • If  we can get to the health club for a fitness class or a work out, let’s consider it a luxury;  but we can not rely on this as the only means of getting our daily dosage of physical activity!!

 

C³  

My fitness formula based upon the principles of cellular metabolism;

designed for you to reach and keep up your optimal performance

Cardio
From a rest, start your physical activity at a low intensity level and gradually increase it so you are at your target heart rate after 5 minutes; keep up your target heart rate for 10 to 30 minutes and then cool down so that you return back at your resting heart rate after 5 minutes. Try to do this 3 to 5 times per week. There are many ways to get your cardio fitness with equipment or without it.


Core
The core is our body’s center of gravity and is the area from the bottom of our rib cages to the top of our hips. The benefits of strengthening  the core is to improve our balance and prevent common injuries such as low back pain. As little as 5 minutes per day of core strengthening has significant health benefits. To begin strengthening your core, you simply need to get on the ball.

Cortical
This is the most important yet most neglected part of fitness especially in the western world. After all, it is the cerebral cortex that distinguishes humans from all other animals on the planet. It is our seat of reason and creativity and it is the part of our brain that most influences what we actually do in the course of our lives. Without cortical fitness, the lower centers of our Central Nervous Systems will have undue influence on our behaviors and place limitations on our reaching our personal potential and leading fulfilling lives.  It is my professional opinion that cortical fitness is the missing link to achieving  and maintaining our optimal levels of health and performance.

Now that you have the formula, apply it to your life for just 30 minutes per day and I am certain that you will see that this small investment of time will pay you significant dividends.

Good luck and keep your eye on the prize; optimal performance.

End Post

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at:

Optimal Performance MD

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