Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 22, 2017

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Obesity’s latest fat facts

Here’s some of the most recent and interesting studies related to obesity treatment.

Two new weight-loss drugs

This summer, the FDA approved Belviq and Qsymia to help patients lose up to five percent of their body weight. Belviq (lorcaserin) activates the serotonin 2C receptor in the brain, while Qsymia is a combination of topirmate and phentermine. Both are approved for use in patients with a BMI greater than 30 or a BMI over 27 and a comorbidity associated with being overweight.

In clinical trials for Belviq, 47 percent of those receiving the medication lost five percent of their body weight, while only 23 percent in the control group lost the same amount.1 The company that manufactures Belviq has started the process of seeking the approval of Health Canada to make the drug available here.2

In clinical trials with Qsymia, 62 percent of patients taking the medication lost five percent of their body weight, while only 20 percent of those receiving the placebo lost that amount.3 In the clinical trials for both medications, patients received counselling on a calorie-reduced diet and healthy exercise patterns.

Gut bacteria and obesity

Researchers have noted that germ-free mice are leaner than rats with a normal amount of bacteria in their intestinal tract. Compared to normal rats, germ-free rats preferred to consume more lipids and had more receptors for fats on their tongues rather than in their intestines. The intestines of the germ-free rats also had lower levels of ghrelin, leptin, CCK, PYY and GLP-1.4 It’s not known what the role of gut bacteria is in human obesity, but this is an area researchers are studying.5

New strategy

A study done at Arizona State University gave one group of students a whole bagel and then offered them lunch. Another group was given a bagel cut into four pieces and then offered the same lunch. Those who received the bagel cut in four ate less.6 It may be that eating many pieces is more satisfying than eating a single portion of the same food.

A new way of measuring the risks

Researchers have developed a new index which takes into account BMI, waist circumference and height. The ABSI (A Body Shape Index) was evaluated using data from over 14,000 US adults, who participated in NHANES (1999-2004). As the ABSI increased so did the death rate.7 This tool is easy to use and might better target which patients would most benefit from treatment.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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