What’s in a Name?

Something that often troubles me is what society has decided to call obesity treatments, for example: weight-loss drugs and weight-loss surgery.  I know these terms are common. In fact, OAC has used them in our own publications, but I do think we should make a concerted effort to change this language. Treating obesity is about so much more than “weight-loss.” Weight-loss is only a small portion of the overall treatment effect.  Improved health and quality of life should be the true goal of obesity treatments.

As such, I would propose a language change when it comes to describing both drugs and surgery. As I told a recent FDA panel, as patients, we aren’t particularly interested in a drug that just causes cosmetic weight-loss with no other benefit; we want a drug that treats our obesity and the conditions associated with it. So for now, and I think this will likely change over time as we gain a better understanding of how the next generation of drugs will work, I would like us to change the term “weight-loss” drugs to be called “obesity” drugs.  It, in my opinion, reflects what these medications truly should be.

Now, surgery and how it works is coming into focus more and more every day; that’s why I support American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) President Robin Blackstone’s current effort to use metabolic and bariatric surgery, abbreviated MBS, as how we term surgery. Surgery’s dramatic effect on metabolic systems, which in some cases allow for the remission of diseases like type 2 diabetes even before weight-loss, definitely reflects that the procedure is about much more than just “weight-loss.” Now, neither “metabolic” or “bariatric” are simple-to-understand terms, but surgery is not a simple decision or procedure, so using more advanced terms seems more appropriate to me.

An added bonus is that if legitimate therapies are called “obesity” drugs and “metabolic and bariatric” surgery, maybe we can distance them from the wide-spread illegitimate and bogus therapies we often find on store shelves marketed as supplements, etc. for weight-loss. These unregulated, and frankly dangerous, products are a real challenge that preys on a population desperate for legitimate treatments.

That’s my opinion, I’d be curious if you agree or disagree.

Making a Difference Together,


One Comment for this Post
  • Pacific Bariatric
    May 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I agree Joe, there is more to loosing weight than just loosing the pounds. No one has to tell anyone about the downside of morbid obesity. If someone is at least 100 pounds over their ideal body weight, I’m sure they already know about the severe health risks. Not to mention the feelings of frustration, depression, and hopelessness that can be absolutely overwhelming. Changing the term to bariatric or metabolic surgery, in my opinion, may remove the stigma attached to any failed weight loss approaches.

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