What is Obesity?

From a behavioral problem to an epidemic

Until the 90’s, obesity was thought to be a completely behavioral matter. Are you overweight? The problem lies with you, with your lack of control, with your momentary cravings for various foods that cause you to obsessively want to open the fridge at 2 in the morning. In fact, even today many think that if you are overweight, all you need to do is simply “shut your mouth”. Easy, isn’t it?

Not quite. About twenty years ago, senior physicians in the US began changing their approach. As the Western World continued to see more people gaining weight, experts began to understand this was not a trivial matter. Obesity is a problem stemming from quite a few reasons: genetics, over-industrialization of our food, and the modern lifestyle that has made it a habit to spend many hours on static work at the office and as a result of that – lack of exercise. That is one of the reasons that most diets don’t work. According to research, between 65 and 95 percent of those who lose weight gain it back.

The problem has not skipped Israel as well:

50%

of the adult population in Israel
suffer from obesity

70%

of the obese also have comorbidities – diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and more.

4,000

people die in Israel every year as a result of comorbidities that go hand in hand with obesity

Why is it important to treat obesity?

Obesity is a disease that constitutes the fifth leading cause of death in the world and one of the most common causes of chronic diseases and such comorbidities as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and more. Recent studies indicate that obese people will become ill earlier in life. Therefore, it is extremely important to treat obesity in its earlier stages, before comorbidities develop, and to encourage the patient to see the relevant medical professionals in order to be provided with treatment for their condition. The fact that excessive weight is the cause of a wide variety of serious diseases and that death as a result of excessive weight has become the number 2 cause after smoking tobacco, has also contributed to the understanding that this extensive epidemic must be treated.

While humanity had been fighting excessive weight in many ways – from strict diets to bariatric surgery when necessary – an official breakthrough in the field was achieved in 2013 when the American Medical Association established in a convention that was held in Chicago that obesity was a disease that should be treated medically. Today there is a deeper understanding of the brain mechanisms responsible for satiation, and it is known that one of the biggest problems leading to obesity is the disturbed balance between the hunger and satiation mechanisms in our body, which requires medicinal intervention in order to treat the disease.

Today there is a deeper understanding of the brain mechanisms responsible for satiation, and it is known that one of the biggest problems leading to obesity is the disturbed balance between the hunger and satiation mechanisms in our body, which requires medicinal intervention in order to treat the disease.

What medications are available today for treating obesity?

As a result of the deeper understanding of the satiation and hunger mechanisms in our bodies, health authorities in Israel and overseas have approved over the last few years the use of a number of effective medications that were designed to balance the mechanisms responsible for the brain’s satiation zones as well as affecting the stomach. There are drugs that work on the hunger and satiation mechanism in the brain, while others work by breaking up the fat obtained from food in the stomach. Some of these drugs are for regular use while others are limited in time. Effectiveness varies drug to drug as do their side effects. Therefore, it is important to customize the medication treatment to personally suit each individual patient, after understanding their medical history, taking other regular drugs they may be taking into consideration, and recognizing what their problematic mechanism may be.

Prescription drugs that have been approved by the FDA and the Israeli Ministry of Health assist the patient in losing weight thanks to their work on the brain’s satiation zone and the fact they suppress hunger. Their greatest advantage lies not only in their ability to assist in weight loss but in maintaining it for long periods of time. When the patient loses considerable weight thanks to the medication treatment and stops thinking constantly about food, they can begin a multidisciplinary treatment that assists them in gradual, controlled loss, later accustoming the body to lower doses of the drug. This treatment method assists in maintaining one’s weight after losing it and in preventing future weight gain.

Am I a good candidate for medication treatment?

In order to know if you are a candidate for losing weight with medication treatment, you should understand how obesity is tested. The most objective criterion currently available is body mass index (BMI). By using a simple chart that calculates the ratio between your height and weight, your BMI can be established. A BMI between 18 and 24.9 is considered to be normal weight, one between 25 and 29.9 indicates a person is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or above shows obesity. Of course, as one’s BMI increases, so does the risk to your health. Furthermore, when the body gets accustomed to a certain weight, it forces you to consume more sugar and carbohydrates, so the difficulty to lose weight through conventional methods only increases.

BMI chart