We’re losing the war on fat; but some new bio-med efforts may reverse the tide

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This New York Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene ad is one example of taxpayers funding campaigns on obesity

By Whitt Flora – BALTIMORE —  Now that the American Medical Association has declared obesity a disease, it’s time to consider our longstanding failure to address it responsibly.

America’s war on fat is entering its fourth decade and it’s stunning that 98 percent of obese Americans haven’t been significantly helped.   A recent report by the World Health Organization found severe obesity still affects 15.5 million adult Americans.


Despite years of government warnings and new efforts to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods by taxing, limiting the proportions that can be served and, in some cases even banning them,  obesity has become the health crisis of this generation and quite probably the most pressing health concern in human history.

The problem is particularly acute in the U.S., where the WHO recently estimated that 77 percent of females and more than 80 percent of males aged 15 and older are overweight or obese.

Excess fat causes untold numbers of premature deaths and afflicts Americans with such serious maladies as heart disease, diabetes and even forms of cancer that could, in many instances, be avoided.  Not to mention the negative mental effect of unneeded and useless angst.

How can we be spending billions and billions of dollars each year on the fight against fat each year and still be losing it?

One likely reason: We’ve been setting ourselves up for failure by raising expectations far beyond the norms of reality.  Obese Americans are bombarded with messages that suggest shedding pounds will turn women into bikini models and men into super athletes bristling with muscles.

The truth is that only really good reason for shedding weight is improving your health — not your looks.

If a 250-pound woman loses 22 pounds, or about 24 percent of her excess body weight, it may not sound like much, but from a health perspective it can be profoundly important.  The question is how to do it without the possibility of suffering unhealthy side effects.

Few Americans want go through some of the traditional surgical interventions modern medicine has come up with to trim weight — and who can blame them?

Most come under the rubric of major surgery with a possibility of significant complications.

Procedures like sleeve gastrectomy, which removes more than 80 percent of the stomach and is irreversible.  Or gastric bypasses that reroute the intestines to reduce the digestion of food also come with severe complications.

Even the more benign lap-band surgery chosen by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to restrict his stomach’s capacity comes with a laundry list of warnings.   Reoperation may be required if the band slips or if too rapid weight loss occurs.  Recipients may experience difficulty swallowing, infections, nausea and vomiting.

Fortunately, medical scientists in many countries around the globe, including the U.S. are working overtime to come up with better solutions.

One small medical device company in Minnesota — EnteroMedics — is working on one that could prove a winner.  Its so-called VBLOC therapy is delivered by a small, implantable device that use electrodes that deliver low-energy electrical impulse to the vagal nerve that help patients control hunger sensations.

Studies soon to be scrutinized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have shown that blocking the vagal nerve signals help patients control hunger sensations — resulting in a feeling of early fullness at meals.  The device may be turned off and is designed to be reversible, programmable and adjustable from outside the body.

In the biotech arena, MedImmune, a Gaithersburg, Md. biotech company, just announced it will work with NGM Biopharmaceuticals to develop a new treatment for obesity and diabetes which is focused on enteroendocrine cells that are naturally found in the gastro intestine I tract.

Other companies are also pursuing new therapies and treatment options.  If some of these efforts eventually pass muster at the FDA, one or more may finally bring relief to the millions of Americans who haven’t yet been liberated from the physical pain and financial suffering of obesity.

Whitt Flora is the former chief congressional correspondent for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine and was a Washington correspondent for the Columbus Dispatch.  Readers may write him at 319 W. 27th Steet, Baltimore, MD 21211 or e-mail him at pirwhitt@yahoo.com





  1. eat nutritional ,traditional foods.cut back on soda pops,processed foods.some of the foods especially some of the vegetables eat raw.do ten push-ups in the morning and again in the evening for the first week.do eleven push-ups twice a day on the 2nd week,do 12 on the 3rd week and so on.take vtamin D3.

  2. Superficially, I have no problem with declaring obesity a "disease". but factually, it really isn't. Only in a very few cases where thyroid disease or with other similar maladies can one really say it's a disease. the problem with calling it a disease is that our nanny government, if it hasn't already, will start giving disability benefits to fat people. I not of a person who weighs 350 lbs. and now gets social security disability checks. He did this to himself and is able to undo it himself, but no, now he's retired in his early 50s and we have to pay for his comfort and existence. He was always the type to look for an angle and he's found the gold standard. He can eat all he wants and get paid for it. Where has personal responsibility gone? Why do we, through or laws encourage people to become unproductive and dependents of the State?

  3. Fat and obesity term derives unhealthy relationship with diet and exercises; report say that around 60% of world populations are suffering from obesity problems; and therefore they need to take the support of several types of diet and exercise programs. But still due to ineffective consistency all of them are fails to achieve the goals. So in order to prevent obesity problems among human being we are really worried and strict on our diet and exercise programs regular low cholesterol diet and foods and quite beneficial for weight loss. Basically a normal human being used to consume 500 to 700 calories per day that definitely helps to maintain a perfect healthy physical fitness. https://about.me/urgentcareguru

  4. Procedures like sleeve gastrectomy, which removes more than 80 percent of the stomach and is irreversible. Or gastric bypasses that reroute the intestines to reduce the digestion of food also come with severe complications.

  5. The device may be turned off and is designed to be reversible, programmable and adjustable from outside the body.

  6. Biomeds isn't what the US population needs. It's common sense and a healthy lifestyle! You can't stuff your mouth with food and meds all day and expect to be a model.

    • Exactly! I'm always amazed with people that live under the impression that a healthy and attractive body means being skinny, eating vegetables and all that.

  7. America's war on fat is entering its fourth decade it still going up. Your appetite will likely increase with the additional physical activity.

    • Well yeah but an increased apetite because of the phisical activity is very different from an increased appetite because of the McDonalds commercials

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