When Diet and Exercise Aren't Enough

Obesity medications and bariatric surgery in conjunction with diet and exercise could help weight loss

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) They may be key to weight loss and good health, but diet and exercise may sometimes need a little help from obesity medications and surgery.

An expert task force, put together by the Endocrine Society, recently issued new guidelines for fighting obesity. These experts suggested that, in some cases, medications and surgery should be used alongside diet and exercise to help patients slim down.

Although the task force recommended medications and surgery in certain cases, the expert team also stressed the key role of diet and exercise.

“Lifestyle changes should always be a central part of any weight loss strategy," said Caroline M. Apovian, MD, of the Boston University School of Medicine, in a press release. “Medications do not work by themselves, but they can help people maintain a healthy diet by reducing the appetite. Adding a medication to a lifestyle modification program is likely to result in greater weight loss.”

Obesity is a major problem in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one third of US adults — 78.6 million people — are obese. These people are at a greater risk for issues like heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

According to Dr. Apovian and colleagues, all obese patients who are trying to lose weight should make lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet and exercising. However, these experts noted that, for patients with a history of trouble losing weight or keeping it off, other approaches might help.

These approaches include bariatric (weight loss) surgery and medications for weight management. Bariatric surgery is a group of procedures that limit the amount of food the body can take in, often by making the stomach smaller.

According to the Endocrine Society, four new anti-obesity medications have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in the past two years. These include lorcaserin (brand name Belviq) and liraglutide (Victoza).

Dr. Apovian and team also pointed out a complication in the fight against obesity.

"Many medications commonly prescribed for diabetes, depression, and other chronic diseases have weight effects, either to promote weight gain or produce weight loss," Dr. Apovian and team wrote.

The task force members said medications with no effect on weight or those that help overweight patients slim down should be used in these cases when possible.

Dr. Apovian and team also stressed the importance of doctors and patients talking about a medication's potential effects on weight in detail so that the patient can make an informed decision with his or her doctor.

This study was published online Jan. 15 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The Endocrine Society funded Dr. Apovian and colleagues. Several of the task force members had ties to pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Zafgen.


Review Date: 
January 20, 2015
Last Updated:
March 16, 2015