The Obesity Epidemic And How Medical Research Can Play A Role In Weight Loss

According to the National Institute of Health, 1 of every 3 adult Americans are obese (BMI over 30). The occurrence of extremely obese people is 1 in every 20. “Take a look at the numbers over the last 20 years,” remarked Dr. Chaykin, an endocrinologist with Meridien Research. “We’ve gone from 17% of Americans who are obese to 35%. The number has doubled. The average American consumes 300 calories more a day than they did 20 years ago. I think we can equate this to environmental factors, and not so much genetics.”

Children At-Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. Nearly 18% of children between the age of 6 and 11 years of age are obese, and 21% of the 12 to 16-years-old have a BMI of 30 or more.

In a recent article in Scientific American, the problem stems from environmental factors, much the same as adults—lack of exercise, abundance of fast food, and larger portions.

Difficulty with Weight Loss

“Losing more than 10% of your body weight is very difficult,” explained Dr. Chaykin. “The reason for this is not laziness. There are metabolic changes in the body that counteract a person’s efforts trying to lose weight. Hormonal changes occur that prevent them from losing more weight.”  He gave an example of a person weighing 250 pounds, who loses 30 pounds, over 10% of their weight. Just to maintain their new weight at 220 pounds, they have to eat 300 fewer calories a day than someone who is the same height and has been 220 pounds. The changes to the metabolic resting rate are substantial.

Because there are metabolic changes in the body during weight loss, people who go on diets to lose weight are unable to sustain them. The body actually fights against weight loss. This is best seen in a study performed on the season 8 contestants of the famous show “The Biggest Loser. Almost all 16 of the contestants (only one continued to lose weight) gained much if not all of their weight lost during the show—some gained more.

The metabolic rate of an obese person is normal for their weight prior to weight loss. Their metabolic rates decrease substantially during and after weight loss. Therefore, the success is shadowed by sustained metabolic stress that continues for years to come.

What is even more fascinating is the metabolic rates never adjust to coincide with others who have not had substantial weight loss. The “Biggest Losers” were performing an uphill battle against their own biology. Because of this, several had bariatric surgery and other therapeutic methods of weight control.

Obesogenic Environments

The growing spread of fast food restaurants has been documented in best-selling books (“Fast Food Nation” and “Omnivore’s Dilemma”), scientific research, and documentaries. In a recent study, families with working adults ate more than two of their meals a week at fast food restaurants. A significant portion of daily calories are contained in a single meal at a fast food restaurant, and few healthy options are available, or appealing.

Obesogenic environments are dietary environments where people have little to no prospect of maintaining self-control. Contributing to this is the amount of “screen time” spent in front of computers, phones, tablets, and televisions. Ever increasing hours spent in front of a screen lead to lack of exercise and unconscious eating. Factors outside the home include public places, such as shopping malls and movie theaters. These environments have become more detrimental to healthy eating habits, and pander to impulsivity.

Health and Well-Being

The rate of type 2 diabetes is proportional to the growing rate of obesity. “The epidemic of diabetes has tracked with obesity, and 86 million people in the U.S. are prediabetic,” said Dr. Chaykin. “Along with diabetes, obese and overweight people are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, liver, and kidney disease.” Other risks include:

  • Stroke
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gallstones
  • Osteoarthritis

As seen in the TV show, losing weight and keeping it off poses major physical and psychological hurdles. No longer viewed as a condition of laziness, obesity, for some, is considered a disease that needs to be treated with medications or bariatric surgery.

New drugs therapies approved by the FDA can lower a patient’s weight with few side effects. Meridien Research frequently conducts clinical trials on weight loss medications. People looking to shed pounds who have been unsuccessful with a diet and exercise regimen should consider participating in a medical research study as medical advances may lead to better health. Contact Meridien Research at 888-777-8839 for more information.