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There is intense debate about what types of diet are most effective for treating the overweight and obese: should they follow a high protein diet? a high carbohydrate diet? a high fat diet? a low-fat vegetarian diet? Over the course of several years, and several studies, Dr. Frank Sacks has found that no single diet will cure all obesity, and he has no idea why this is 1.

In a recent New York Times article, reporter Gina Colata collected the research of Dr. Sacks and interviewed several obesity doctors who all came back with a similar response. According to one doctor in Colata’s article, s insisting that there is only one way to counter obesity is like saying that staying out of the sun will prevent all cancer. It’s just not true. The answer lies in discovering how many kinds of obesity there are, and for each patient, figuring out what kind they have and then working on a treatment. Obesity causes range from genetic disorders, to genetic inheritance of other disorders that can affect weight, to the use of a weight-gain causing drugs, to lifestyle issues.

Image of four of the obesity case studies from New York Times article. Image courtesy of New York Times.

Four of the case studies from New York Times article, image courtesy of New York Times.

The problem, Colata discovers, is that “obesity and its precursor—being overweight—are not one disease but instead, like cancer, they are many” 1. In other words, two people can be the same weight, height, with the same ethnic origins and still, the same diet or exercise regimen- or drug will not work for both patients. This explains why finding a treatment that will work is so difficult and why results vary wildly. It can also help to explain why prevention efforts, on the part of patients before they find themselves in the doctor’s office, can often fail.

Colata’s article chronicles six stories from obesity patients who, with the help of obesity doctor’s, found treatments that worked—and many of them incorporated prescription drugs or a very strict lifestyle change.

You can read the original New York Times article by Colata here:

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You can also read Dr. Sacks’ original research here: