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Could Yo-Yo-Ing Weight Increase Risk Of Heart Attack?

>> Sunday, April 9, 2017



In the effort to manage excess body weight, many people have experienced the 'yo-yo' effect: start a diet, weight goes down... end the diet, weight goes back up (and then some, in many cases).  We already know that this fluctuation in weight is damaging to metabolism, in that our bodies essentially remember the highest weight we have ever had, making powerful hormonal and metabolic changes to drive us back up to our highest weight.  Now, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrates that fluctuation in body weight is associated with a higher rate of heart attack and death in people who have coronary artery disease.

The study evaluated fluctuations in body weight amongst 9,509 people with heart disease, who were enrolled in the TnT trial of cholesterol medication atorvastatin, taking the opportunity to evaluate whether fluctuations in weight made a difference in terms of risk of having a cardiovascular event.  In a post hoc analysis, they found that the greater the weight fluctuation, the higher the risk.  Specifically, for every 1 Standard Deviation (SD) in weight, there was a 4% increase in risk for any cardiovascular event, and a 9% increase in risk of death, independent of other cardiovascular risk factors.  Among patients in the top 20% for fluctuations in body weight, there was an 85% higher risk of a cardiovascular event and over a double increased risk of death, compared to those in the lowest 20% for fluctuations in body weight.  The risk associated with weight fluctuation was higher in those with obesity or overweight, compared to those of normal body weight. Also, a greater body weight fluctuation was also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

One wonders whether these findings could simply reflect that people who had wide fluctuations in weight were sicker in general (eg big weight loss with illness), though this clinical trial did exclude people with a poor prognosis. The study also did not assess whether the weight fluctuations were intentional (eg dieting) vs unintentional (eg illness).

We cannot infer causality from this study - in other words, we can't be sure that the weight fluctuations were the cause of the increased cardiovascular events - but the association between weight fluctuation and cardiovascular events was nevertheless strong.  Given these findings, it seems more important than ever to avoid yo-yo weight changes by making permanent lifestyle changes rather than engaging in temporary solutions/programs to optimally manage weight.


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www.drsue.ca © 2017

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After Bariatric Surgery - Patients' Perspectives

>> Friday, March 31, 2017





There is no doubt that bariatric surgery is a hot topic of research these days.  Most of this research focuses on the medical benefits that can be enjoyed after bariatric surgery, such as improvements in diabetes control, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and so forth.  Much less qualitative research has been done - the kind of research that looks at things that are hard to measure with numbers, such as psychological effects and changes in quality of life. Most of the qualitative information that has been published is on small groups of individuals, and it is challenging for patients or clinicians to synthesize this smattering of data as a whole.

Coulman and colleagues recently collected information on this topic in the first systematic review of qualitative research in the bariatric surgery field.  Published in Obesity Reviews (and free to download!), they included 33 studies reporting on the patient perspective on living with the outcomes of bariatric surgery.

Three themes were identified:

1.  Control.  Patients reported making the decision to undergo bariatric surgery to gain control over eating, weight, and health.  In general, a feeling of improved control was experienced in the first year after surgery, but after a year, there was less of a sense of physical control (described as 'stomach control'), and it became more about relying on their own 'head control' to manage food intake.

2. Normality.  A sense of 'normality' was something that many patients were striving for after bariatric surgery - lives less burdened by physical and psychological ill health, ability to participate in normal everyday activities, and what patients described as a more 'socially acceptable' appearance.  While many people felt more 'normal' after surgery, there were also several issues identified that challenged patients' desire to feel 'normal'.  This included a change in their own or others' perceptions of their bodies, unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects (eg vomiting or diarrhoea), not being able to eat like others, and loose hanging skin.

3.  Ambivalence. Patients reported that while some things changed for the better, other changes were difficult to cope with or adapt to. This included physical pros (improvement in metabolic health) and cons (gastrointestinal and nutritional side effects of surgery).  This also included psychological pros (improvement in depression, self esteem, control) and cons (eg continued depression and self esteem issues with a realization by some that bariatric surgery was not going to fix these issues; challenges of finding ways other than food to cope with emotions; feeling a loss of protection from the outside world and a feeling of vulnerability with weight loss).

This review is a treasure trove of information, including quotes from patients, and is a great read in its entirety.   These findings highlight that while bariatric surgery is an excellent treatment strategy for some people, for others it may not be the best choice.  These findings certainly speak to the need for long term follow up for patients who have had bariatric surgery, including long term psychological and nutritional support.

As the authors write: Surgery was not the end of their journey with obesity, but rather the beginning of a new and sometimes challenging path.

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www.drsue.ca © 2017

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Is The Birth Control Pill Less Effective In Obesity?

>> Friday, March 24, 2017



The birth control pill is used by many women for prevention of pregnancy.  While generally very effective to prevent pregnancy if taken correctly, failure to prevent pregnancy can occur.

It has been noted in observational studies that women with obesity may have a higher risk of birth control pill failure, compared to women without obesity.  How could this be?

It turns out that the oral contraceptive has altered pharmacokinetics in obesity - meaning that the way the body handles the medication is a little bit different. Specifically, some research has suggested that the half life of the birth control pill is longer, meaning that it takes longer for the pill to reach therapeutic levels in women with obesity (ie at the beginning of the pack each month).

Strategies to minimize birth control pill failure in women with obesity have been suggested, such as taking the pill continuously, or using a higher dose than the low dose regimens that are commonly prescribed.   However, these strategies would have to be weighed against the potential for increased risks such as potential increased risk of blood clots with higher estrogen exposure.  One thing I feel we can conclude from this information is that taking the pill correctly (not starting a new pack late, not missing doses, and taking it within the required time frame each day) is especially important.


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www.drsue.ca © 2017

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New Cholesterol Medication Evolocumab Reduces Cardiovascular Events

>> Saturday, March 18, 2017





In follow up to my recent blog post, we now have the detailed results from the FOURIER trial, demonstrating that the PCSK9 inhibitor evolocumab reduces cardiovascular events in patients with cardiovascular disease.

Published (and free to read online) in the New England Journal of Medicine March 17th, this large study randomized 27,564 patients to either evolocumab or placebo, to examine the impact on the primary endpoint of cardiovascular death, heart attack, stroke, hospitalization for unstable angina, or coronary revascularization.  Patients in the study already had existing cardiovascular disease, had a bad cholesterol (LDL) of 1.8 mmol/L or greater, and were all on statin therapy (the current gold standard group of lipid lowering medications).

After a median of 2.2 years, evolocumab reduced cardiovascular events by 15%, with 9.8% of patients on treatment having an event, vs 11.3% of patients on placebo. This difference was driven by a reduction in heart attack, stroke, and coronary revascularization, with no significant difference in cardiovascular death or hospitalization for unstable angina.

Evolocumab reduced LDL by 59%, from a median baseline value of 2.4 mmol/L to 0.78 mmol/L. The reduction in cardiovascular events was consistent, regardless of baseline LDL.  The only side effect that was significantly different between the evolocumab vs placebo groups was injection site reaction, seen in 2.1% vs 1.6% of patients respectively.

While these results give us important information regarding the benefit of evolocumab in patients with established cardiovascular disease, we still need data to know if these benefits would also be enjoyed by people with high cardiovascular risk but without established cardiovascular disease. We also need to know more about long term effects of PCSK9 inhibitors.  As noted in the accompanying editorial, it is not known whether prolonged exposure to extremely low LDL levels could affect neurocognitive function (though no difference was seen in the FOURIER study); longer term studies are underway.

The benefits of additional LDL lowering with evolocumab in addition to statins to reduce cardiovascular events in patients with established cardiovascular disease are clear from this study.  Cost of currently available PCSK9 inhibitors (evolocumab and alirocumab) are currently a major limitation to their use, but hopefully this will change with time as evidence regarding benefits hopefully accumulate.

Disclaimer: I have been involved as an investigator in a clinical trial of PCSK9 inhibition.

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen

www.drsue.ca © 2017

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Excess Weight Is Risk Factor for Developing Multiple Myeloma

>> Thursday, March 9, 2017



We know that carrying excess weight is a risk factor for many types of cancer, including colon, breast, liver, kidney, and several others.  A new study suggests that in people who carry a risk factor for multiple myeloma called MGUS, having excess body weight increases the risk of developing multiple myeloma.

MGUS stands for Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance.  When people have MGUS, their bone marrow makes too much of one type of white blood cell, which makes this MGUS protein.  In most cases, MGUS does not lead to any problems, but in some cases, MGUS can progress to a cancer called multiple myeloma.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, analyzed data on 7,878 patients from the US Veterans Affairs database (predominantly men), diagnosed with MGUS. Over a median of 5-6 years, they found that 4.6% of patients with overweight and 4.3% of patients with obesity went on to develop multiple myeloma, compared with only 3.5% of patients with normal weight.

In the multivariable analysis that controls for other factors, they found that patients with overweight and obesity with MGUS had a 55% and 98% higher risk of progression to multiple myeloma, respectively, than normal-weight patients with MGUS.

I have seen many online agencies reporting on this study leading with titles like 'Weight Loss May Help Prevent Multiple Myeloma'.  While this study does suggest that carrying excess weight increases the risk of multiple myeloma, this does not prove that weight loss decreases the risk.  Additional studies need to be done to understand whether healthy weight loss in people with MGUS helps to prevent progression to multiple myeloma.



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www.drsue.ca © 2017

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How Does Breastfeeding Protect Against Obesity?

>> Sunday, February 26, 2017



Breast is best, when women are able to breast feed – we know this without a doubt.  Infants who are breastfed enjoy a long list of health benefits, including a reduced risk of infections, autoimmune diseases, SIDS, leukemia, and more.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity as well – the available data on this suggests that there is a 15-30% reduction in adolescent and adult obesity rates if any breastfeeding occurred in infancy, compared with no breastfeeding.  With the reduction in obesity risk comes a 40% decreased risk of the child developing type 2 diabetes later in life as well.  

So, how does breastfeeding protect against developing obesity later in life?  Well, there are a number of hypotheses.  For one, when a baby is breastfeeding, the amount of milk s/he takes in is self regulated. Simply put: when they are full, they stop drinking.  When a baby is bottle fed, there may be a push for baby to finish the bottle  - possibly resulting in the baby taking in more food than s/he otherwise would have.  Thus, with breastfeeding, the baby’s brain is programmed to self regulate how much s/he wants to eat – programming that is likely carried on with them later in life.

Secondly, the gut bacteria that the baby develops may be influenced by whether the baby is breast or bottle fed.  We now know that the type of gut bacteria we carry can have a significant impact on the risk of obesity and metabolic disease such as diabetes.   Also, if a baby needs to take antibiotics, this can change the bacteria in his/her gut and may affect the risk of obesity.  Breastfed infants have a markedly lower risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infection, portending a lower risk of needing antibiotics as well.

Thirdly, what the baby is being fed is of course different.  While every effort has been made to make infant formula as close to human milk as possible, there are many differences, with many factors unique to human milk that may affect nutritional status, energy balance and/or satiety.   

Still so much we need to research, learn, and understand about this fascinating area!


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www.drsue.ca © 2017

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Will Bariatric Surgery Help Me Control My Diabetes?

>> Sunday, February 19, 2017





One of the major reasons why we might suggest bariatric (obesity) surgery to our patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes, is that studies have shown bariatric surgery to be very effective in improving diabetes control, or even putting diabetes into remission.  However, it has been slow to grow the body of research data in this area, as it is difficult to conduct high quality, long term studies in this field.

Now, just published, we have 5 year data showing that bariatric surgery (gastric bypass surgery and sleeve gastrectomy) are superior to medical therapy to treat type 2 diabetes in people with obesity.

I blogged on the 3 year data in this trial, called the STAMPEDE trial, when it came out in 2014 - where you can read about the structure, goals of the study and the results at that time.

Now, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the extended results of the STAMPEDE study show that 5 years after bariatric surgery, 29% of patients who had gastric bypass surgery had tight control of their diabetes, vs 23% of those who had sleeve gastrectomy, vs only 5% of those who had intensive medical treatment alone.  A duration of diabetes of less than 8 years before surgery was the main predictor of achieving tight control of diabetes, suggesting that earlier intervention with bariatric surgery may give the maximum benefit in glycemic control.

There were also greater improvements in body weight, several measures of cholesterol, need for insulin, and quality of life in the surgical groups.  No late major surgical complications were reported except for one person in the sleeve gastrectomy group who underwent gastric bypass at year 4 to treat a gastric fistula.  Follow up at the 5 year mark was 90%, which is excellent.

While I still take issue to the target for diabetes control being too tight in this study at an A1C of 6.0%, this study does now give us good 5 year data to support that bariatric surgery can be an effective tool to help treat type 2 diabetes in people with obesity.

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen

www.drsue.ca © 2017

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