Despite millions of dollars in research by scientists and drug companies, only a handful of government-approved weight-loss drugs remain on the market. Only one can be used long term, and none is considered very effective.
"It's been very frustrating," said Jennifer Lovejoy, incoming president of the Obesity Society, a research and advocacy group. "We desperately need safe new drugs so we can begin to have something effective against this public health epidemic."
The search for a weight loss cure, once dismissed as a cosmetic luxury, has intensified as more than two-thirds of Americans have become overweight, including one-third who are obese, boosting their risk for a host of health problems.
Experts stress that the best way to be healthy is to eat well and exercise regularly and to avoid gaining weight in the first place - and the failure to produce a pharmaceutical magic bullet makes the importance of that ever clearer. Doctors recommend that people always try to improve their eating habits and increase their physical activity to lose weight. But diets and exercise regimens often fail, and many people are unable to shed significant numbers of pounds or keep them off, so they resort to drugs or even surgery.
The effort to develop safe and effective weight-loss drugs, however, has suffered one setback after another. Part of the problem has been scientific, experts say. The body's hunger, fat storage and energy-burning system has turned out to be far more complex than originally thought.
"It's got lots of fail-safes and mechanisms in it," said Donna H. Ryan of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. "Our biology is really designed to promote food intake and prevent weight loss. Our genes evolved to defend against starvation."
This is a good piece. When I was done I wonder what the long-term effects of weight-loss pill would be? Would it empower us to consume even more or, rather, to think even less about how or what we're consuming? A reckoning on how we use our environment seems, in the not too distant future, to be in the offing. I wonder how a weight-loss drug would effect that offing.
I don't want to come off as unsympathetic. The other half of this is that there are many of us who've gained so much that "will power" and "try harder" simply isn't a real answer. Frankly, I don't think it was ever an answer. But that's another discussion.