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Doctors: to beat obesity, diet and exercise alone often aren’t enough

NEW YORK, Feb. 13 (UPI) — The push to classify obesity as a chronic disease — not simply the consequence of overeating and living a sedentary existence — got a major boost this week with the publication of a new editorial paper that suggests diet and exercise alone are often not enough to help patients lose and keep off weight.

“Although lifestyle modifications may result in lasting weight loss in individuals who are overweight, in those with chronic obesity, body weight seems to become biologically ‘stamped in’ and defended,” lead author Dr. Christopher Ochner, a pediatrics and psychiatry professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, explained in a press release.

The paper argues that obesity should be treated and talked about more like a disease of addiction, like drugs and alcohol. Ochner argues that low-calorie diets often only serves to accentuate the biological response that drives humans to over-consume high-calorie foods.

“Therefore, the current advice to eat less and exercise more may be no more effective for most individuals with obesity than a recommendation top avoid sharp objects for someone bleeding profusely,” doctors and researcher wrote in the new paper, published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology.

“Few individuals ever recover from obesity, rather they suffer from ‘obesity in remission,'” Ochner and his colleagues contend.

In addition to Ochner, the paper was co-authored by a number of other doctors and health experts, including: University of Colorado internist Dr. Adam G. Tsai; Dr. Robert F. Kushner, from the Center for Lifestyle Medicine, in Chicago; and Dr. Thomas A Wadden, a researcher at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania.

Not everyone is on board with the tone or argument employed in the new paper, however.

“Where they are correct is there are powerful biological forces which make it extremely difficult for an individual to lose weight and keep it off,” obesity expert Dr. Ian Campbell told The Express. “But their argument falls down by advocating for better drug and surgical treatments instead of behavior change.”

“Helping individuals change their lifestyles is the key to long term weight loss, delving into the emotional and psychological causes of obesity,” Campbell added.

Dr. David Haslam, chair of the United Kingdom’s National Obesity Forum, said the paper distracts from the reality that diet and exercise are the only scientifically proven means to help people lose weight.

“Nutritional changes and increases in physical activity underpin each and every weight-loss attempt,” Haslam told Medscape. “Medications to reduce weight are a bonus but only work effectively in the context of sound nutrition and activity advice, and weight loss can be maintained only in that context.”

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