Thursday, August 30, 2018

Taking Medication For Obesity (Or Anything Else For That Matter) Is Not A Failure

The other day a GP tweeted at me that there was "no role for pharmacology" in the treatment of obesity along with an #LCHF hashtag. I can only presume she believes low-carb high-fat diets are the global panacea that everyone needs, and that those not adopting and succeeding with them are personal failures.

And hers isn't an isolated viewpoint, nor is it one that's relegated only to the #LCHF crowd as I've heard from other non-LCHF hashtagged physicians that forks and feet are what's required, not medications or surgery.

But those viewpoints tend only to be extended to obesity, not to any of the literally dozens of other chronic, non-communicable diseases, that lifestyle may prevent or treat, and so yes, while useless truisms like eating less and exercising more would help people to lose weight, and while #LCHF would help some too, it's bias that has obesity as the sole medical condition that people feel comfortable proclaiming that medication (or surgery) has no role in treatment.

Clinically useless truisms aside, obesity is complicated, and moreover we have yet to discover a non-surgical, reproducible, sustainable, and uniformly effective plan for the management of obesity. And while there's no argument about the fact that in a ideal world everyone would take it upon themselves to live the healthiest lives possible, there are two problems with that argument. Firstly, not everyone is interested or able to change their lifestyles, and secondly, statistically speaking, the majority of even those who are interested and successful with lifestyle change will ultimately regress.

Is it lazy to want to improve your quality and/or quantity of life? Because for many that's what the treatment of obesity would do, and that's true for pharmacologically assisted weight loss and surgical weight loss too. And yes, sure, it'd be lovely if everyone had the very real luxuries of possessing the health, time, money, and inclination to regularly and genuinely exercise, cook, and life broadly healthful lives everyday, forevermore, but except in the minds of those filled with dripping I can do it and so should you lifestyle sanctimony, that's simply not the case for a large percentage of our real life population.

So yes, medications for those who want and need them. Same with surgery. And also varied dietary approaches and behavioural strategies. Because my job as a physician is to provide people with enough information about their options for them to make their own informed decisions, it's not to be a myopic, biased, patient-blaming, blowhard, dietligious, zealot