Intellihealth’s Dr. Louis Aronne and Dr. Katherine Saunders talk weight management with digital health influencer Gil Bashe, about our current understanding of obesity, and challenges with keeping the public informed.
Obesity is a complex disease and involves so much more than just the number on the scale. But without enough experts to treat the millions of Americans who have obesity, it’s difficult to combat the rampant misinformation on the subject.
As leading experts in the field of obesity medicine and co-founders of Intellihealth, Dr. Louis Aronne and Dr. Katherine Saunders have devoted their careers to addressing this issue and democratizing access to obesity treatment.
In this first episode of their podcast, Weight Matters, Drs. Aronne and Saunders talk with Gil Bashe, a leading digital health influencer and FINN Partners Global Health Chair. They discuss the widespread public health impacts of obesity, how our perception of the disease has changed over time, and new advances that will shape the future of weight management.
A New Understanding of Obesity
Experts now understand that obesity is a disease linked to many other conditions.
“People are often looking at weight cosmetically, but we’re looking at the conditions that weight contributes to,” Bashe explained. “I think of high cholesterol, I think of hypertension, I think of congestive heart failure, I think of prediabetes, I think of diabetes, I think of asthma, I think of the multitude of cancers that weight contributes to.”
But until recently, scientists struggled to prove those connections.
“It took years to show the link between obesity and the many, many illnesses it causes,” Dr. Aronne shared. “Some of the key findings were the recognition that fat cells produce hundreds of hormones that are critical for the normal functioning of the body, but, when they’re present in excess, they lead to the many inflammatory diseases and other [conditions] that we associate with obesity.”
As our knowledge about how obesity functions has evolved, so has our understanding of how to treat it.
“What’s become very, very clear is it’s so much more than just diet and exercise—just eating less and exercising more. For the vast majority of people who are struggling with overweight or obesity, that’s really just not going to cut it,” Dr. Saunders explained. “What we’ve found to be really required is a comprehensive, individualized, medical approach to this chronic condition.”
The Misinformation Problem
Unfortunately, that individualized approach is not always easy to find. Dr. Saunders explained that she’s one of less than 75 fellowship-trained obesity medicine specialists in the U.S., and there are fewer than 6,000 obesity medicine certified physicians.
When you pair that lack of access to experts with the massive diet industry, which often profits from inaccurate claims or unsustainable weight loss methods, it’s no wonder that misinformation is such a huge problem for people who are overweight or have obesity.
“Considering the magnitude of the problem, the amount of time devoted to obesity in the medical school curriculum is minuscule,” Dr. Aronne shared. “It’s tiny compared to the number of people, and the fact that students, residents, fellows, practicing physicians will encounter this every single day…. More than a third of the people they see will have this.”
Because of this lack of education around weight management, many providers struggle to help their patients when they want to lose weight.
A Promising Future for Weight Management
Even in the midst of struggles to keep the public informed with accurate information about obesity and weight management, Drs. Aronne and Saunders are optimistic about new advances that may transform the way doctors treat people with obesity.
“We’ve had a lot of success with mimicking certain gut hormones that we produce naturally in the body to feedback and tell the brain how much fat is being stored and how full we are,” Dr. Saunders shared.
A new medication called Wegovy is based on this idea, as it mimics a hormone called GLP-1 that is linked to multiple conditions, including obesity and diabetes.
Bashe believes that healthcare practitioners and policymakers should continue focusing on advancing treatments for obesity, not only for the sake of individuals’ health, but also in an effort to reduce healthcare costs.
“Obesity is a clinical issue, it’s certainly a public health issue, but it’s also a business issue in my opinion. I mean, ultimately, 52% of us in America get our health insurance through our employers,” he explained. “Weight is contributing to the cost that employers have to bear.”
Follow Weight Matters wherever you get your podcasts to never miss an episode. To learn more about Dr. Saunders and Dr. Aronne’s work to transform specialized treatments for chronic conditions through the best in medical science and advanced digital technologies, visit www.intellihealth.co/podcast