New weight management program emphasizes care, education

  • Wednesday, August 6, 2014


During the past 25 years, overweight and obesity conditions have become increasingly common and severe in the United States and throughout the world.

Like most major medical problems, multiple factors Ė including biological, social, environmental and cultural -- are believed to play a role in the obesity problem. The common denominator among all persons who are overweight, however, is that they consume more calories than they burn.

What has become increasingly clear is that obesity is more than a cosmetic or aesthetic problem. The American Medical Association recognizes overweight as a medical disease. Overweight is associated with, and believed to play, an important role in causing coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, gallstones, gastroesophageal reflux and many types of cancer. Moreover, voluntary weight loss has been shown to improve many of the aforementioned diseases.

In fact, a voluntary weight loss of as little as 10 percent of a personís body weight will often reduce the dosage or eliminate the need for medications to treat diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and lipid/cholesterol disorders.

Our bodies are quite efficient at accumulating and retaining calories as fatty tissue, making weight loss very difficult. The problem has spawned an industry built on thousands of diets, supplements and behavioral approaches to losing weight. It is wise for patients who want to lose weight to distinguish between anecdotal or testimonial approaches and treatments based on scientific validation. Certainly, any treatment or approach that results in long-term weight loss that is maintained and, most importantly, does no harm is desirable and acceptable.

Georgetown Hospital System has recently launched a nutrition and medical weight loss program called NuMed. A primary goal for this program is to provide a community resource for patient care, education and, eventually, research for weight control and nutrition. The NuMed program distinguishes itself from most other weight control programs by providing weekly sessions with licensed and registered dietitians who help individuals make long-term lifestyle and behavioral changes so they can achieve and maintain meaningful weight loss. This is accomplished by an individualized approach that utilizes a calorie-restricted diet that is sometimes supplemented with FDA-approved medications to curb the appetite, along with OPTIFAST products produced by Nestle Corp. In some cases, patients are referred to a surgeon for evaluation of bariatric surgical procedures.

The NuMed program relies on a step-wise approach based largely on an individualís degree of overweight and comorbid conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. To emphasize, all programs involve weekly sessions to achieve behavioral and lifestyle change, which has repeatedly been shown to be more closely associated with long-term weight control than other weight-loss methods.

Dr. John L. Orchard is a board-certified gastroenterologist with Waccamaw Gastroenterology.

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