Earlier this month, the American Medical Association voted to classify obesity as an official disease. And I agree that real obesity is a major health problem linked to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But classifying obesity as a disease is a disaster waiting to happen.
First of all, how overweight do you have to be to have this new “disease”?
Unfortunately, the line is about as clear as mud. Most doctors say if you have a body-mass index or BMI of 30 or higher, you’re obese. But as I’ve often warned, this test is a highly inaccurate measure of excess weight or overall health.
Plus, you may remember a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that I told you about earlier this year. Yes, it found that severely obese people had a 30 percent higher risk of death.
But among those classified as only slightly obese, the risk of death was 5 percent lower than for normal weight people.
With the right diet and sensible exercise, you can effectively lose weight. And keep it off. Of course, the battle is much, much harder for anyone who is obese.
But when you start calling obesity a disease, it has all kinds of ramifications.
For example, now that obesity is an official disease, can obese men and women claim disability insurance? And what about if you’re just slightly obese? Can you still claim it?
Think of the financial drain on the system that would have to support obese men and women. And even just slightly obese men and women. (It’s rather ironic, given the new data that shows slightly obese men and women may actually wind up living longer than their normal weight peers–adding to the financial drain.)
Most of all, classifying obesity as a disease means you can expect drug companies to develop more and more new drugs to “treat” the disorder. And you can also expect them to peddle their drugs to you even if you are just slightly overweight. Or even if you are “normal” weight, but want that fashionable, undernourished, cadaverous glow.
Several prescription drugs already on the market go after men and women who want to shed a few pounds. One even has an over-the-counter option. The drugs are designed to help you control your appetite. But you are supposed to take them while following a healthy diet and exercise plan.
One drug in development by Zafgen, called Belanorib, targets severely obese patients. But this drug is a different breed altogether…and not just because it targets the severely obese.
In preliminary studies, researchers instructed patients on Belanorib not to change their diet or exercise routine. In addition, you must administer this drug by injection, since the stomach would break it down if ingested.
The drug appears to work by inhibiting an enzyme that digests certain amino acids in proteins. In early studies, researchers observed a significant dose-response effect. In other words, the higher the drug dose, the greater the weight loss.
After 12 weeks, patients who took the lowest dose experienced weight loss of about 10 lbs. Patients who took the highest dose lost about 25 lbs. Patients also showed improved cardio-metabolic risk factors, including reduced triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and markers of inflammation. The patients also felt less hungry.
Despite all these positive early results, I am very leery of this new weight-loss drug.
First of all, when you inject a drug directly into your blood stream, it bypasses the liver. And your liver is your body’s natural filter. The drug also bypasses your body’s normal metabolism. This crosses a big therapeutic threshold. And it means that huge amounts of the drug go directly into your bloodstream. So, this is not a gentle treatment, in the least.
And sure, it seems to bring down all kinds of health markers.
But at what cost?
The drug company and the FDA may not know about Belanorib’s true safety for another 10+ years. And judging from past behavior, they may not get around to telling us for another 17 years. (Just when patent protection gets ready to expire.)
In my own view, you’re better off sticking with good, old-fashioned diet and exercise. Even if you are obese.
Also, consider trying my “Top of the Food Chain” Cure for Obesity. In this special report, you’ll learn all about losing weight while never feeling deprived or hungry. Subscribers to my newsletter get this 6-page guide for free. If you’re not a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.
1. “Zafgen Announces Positive Topline Phase 1b Data for ZGN-433 in Obesity,” Drugs (www.drugs.com) 1/5/2011