Saturday, November 28, 2015

How Acupuncture May Fight Obesity

As we’ve stated before, lifestyle modification (including diet and exercise), bariatric surgery, and weight loss medications are the main approaches to weight loss. While each of these approaches can enable a person to lose weight, each of these approaches has associated pros and cons. However, acupuncture may be an alternative weight loss tool with a number of pros and few associated cons, if the treatment is effective.

Here are some of the problems associated with the common approaches to weight loss: Lifestyle modification, including diet and exercise programs, is difficult to adhere to. Many times, weight loss medications are accompanied by negative side effects. And weight loss surgery can require difficult lifestyle changes, and the surgery may precipitate complications.

So, acupuncture may be worth considering. But there is some doubt as to whether acupuncture can aid in weight loss. Indeed, in a WebMD article, one referenced study concluded that a group that had undergone acupuncture experienced "no statistical difference in body weight, body-mass index and waist circumference" compared to a placebo group.

Although there is some doubt about acupuncture's effectiveness in weight loss, the treatment may still have potential. One mice study has concluded that acupuncture may aid in the conversion of white fat to brown fat. The study "showed that electronic acupuncture can remodel" white fat to brown fat. Brown fat burns energy unlike white fat which stores energy. Since having brown fat may lead to weight loss, brown fat is more desirable than white fat.

Acupuncture has been found to be effective in other treatments including some areas of pain reduction. And acupuncture produces very few negative side effects.  If acupuncture does prove to be effective in white-to-brown fat conversion, the procedure could eventually become another tool that medical weight loss providers could use to treat overweight and obese patients. 

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Metabolically Healthy Obese Persons May Not Remain Healthy

Recent research indicated that a number of obese people are metabolically healthy. Several years ago, the CDC suggested that people who are a little overweight might be healthier than people of normal weight. And that assertion was counter intuitive. But the thought that someone who is obese can be healthy is even more counter intuitive. However, these people apparently exist. They are called metabolically healthy obese, or MHO. But the healthy state may not last.

Martgin Obin, a scientist with the USDA, said that these MHOs are as fat as people who develop complications of obesity, yet they are protected from [obesity related] complications...' Obin indicated that if we can determine what protects these obese but healthy people from metabolic diseases, we can better understand the role that obesity plays in many diseases. Obin speculated that MHOs may have a healthier level of inflammation, and this healthier inflammation level keeps the MHOs healthier. While this could be true, new, more recent research indicates that some MHOs may not be healthy for the long term.

In an English study, 2422 men and women were tracked over an eight year period. And it was found that 44.5% of the MHOs transitioned from a healthy state to an unhealthy state over the eight year period. Further, the researchers indicated that what happened during the transition period could not be fully explained by the study participants' lifestyle. Specifically, the researchers concluded that "a healthy obesity phenotype is relatively unstable. Transition to an unhealthy state is characterized by multiple biological changes which are not fully explained by lifestyle risk factors."

So, understanding these unhealthy biological changes and why these changes are delayed in MHOs could give us insight into treating obesity. We could, perhaps, understand why the MHOs' cells remain healthy for a longer period of time than the cells in the unhealthy obese. This knowledge could be used to develop therapies that can make obese persons healthier while they endeavor to lose weight. This would give both the health care provider and the patient more time to deal with the obesity problem.

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