Dr. Hamish Meldrum under fire for comments, but he's spot on
It's not often that I find myself in agreement one of the leaders of a major health organization since most of the time they get it all backwards, but I have nothing but great admiration and respect for the head of the British Medical Association right now because of his response to the growing trend by obese people in the UK to pop a pill to deal with their weight problem rather than taking the appropriate actions to change their diet and health through lifestyle changes.
After reading what Dr. Hamish Meldrum was quoted as saying in this This Is London column, I just about jumped up out of my seat and cheered him for having the courage to say what needed to be said. Although he's getting railed by everybody and their momma for being insensitive and cruel towards fat people, I think he was simply stating what most people are already thinking but were too afraid to say out loud.
Dr. Meldrum has been disgusted by the trend he sees dieters using to seek out the next miracle "magic bullet" in the form of a pill that will help them lose weight. I've blogged about this many times before whenever the latest obesity pill is released and marketed to the public--Acomplia, Obestatin, Relacore, and most recently the over-the-counter weight loss drug called Alli.
The dirty secret behind these pills (in case you haven't heard and/or figured this out for yourself yet!) is you have to eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet in order for them to be effective. Jeepers creepers! If I have to do THAT in addition to taking these risky medicines, then I think I'll just stick with livin' la vida low-carb thank you very much!
Desperation has set in among hopeless people who want to lose weight at any cost and it hits even those who don't have a lot of weight to lose like Britney Spears last year following her second pregnancy. Plus, why else would excitement ensue over the supposed discovery of an obesity vaccine as if it's some sort of disease you can catch?! Come on people, let's get real here! Obesity is NOT a disease, but rather a conscious choice that people make for themselves.
Dr. Meldrum agrees that this constant obsession over the issue of obesity is very likely what is leading the overweight and obese to abdicate their responsibility to do something about it. Describing this issue as a disease has given doctors a license to treat it medically with drugs rather than insisting on their patients to try implementing effective lifestyle changes.
AMEN TO THAT! People don't like hearing the truth about their weight problem and then lash out at doctors who are forthright about it. That's why many doctors are turning a blind eye to their patient's obesity because they don't want to risk the scorn and even potential legal liability of confronting their patients with this (remember this Florida police chief who got fired for creatively trying to motivate his pudgy officers into shape?).
The bottom line, Dr. Meldrum says, is the medical profession is going about treating obesity in all the wrong ways without addressing the real problem.
"We are saying, 'This patient has a hyper-appetite problem' rather than, 'They are just greedy,'" he contended.
He added that obesity is not a medical issue, but rather a "societal" problem (that needs to be addresed by the individual) that will not go away just because of the creation of risky new pharmaceuticals which only serve to hide the symptoms of the bigger problem.
"We are in danger of over-medicalizing," Dr. Meldrum continued. "The evidence of anti-obesity drugs is not good. The evidence for effective intervention in primary care for obesity is very weak."
Then why is this the primary way we treat obesity in 2007? You see more news stories and attention given to anti-obesity drugs and gastric bypass surgery than you do the promotion of dietary changes and natural lifestyle interventions. There needs to be more confronting of obese people with these options rather than the more "extreme" measures that are currently considered the norm.
With self-imposed goals to reduce the number of obese people in the UK, doctors are trying to fudge the numbers artificially to make the cut. Dr. Meldrum is disgusted with this and says it is the wrong way to bring about changes.
Over a million obesity drug prescriptions were written in the UK last year raking in 47 million pounds in 2006 alone for the drug companies. This represented a sharp increase of 16 percent and those numbers are still on the rise.
The only thing that will work is lifestyle change and these medicinal responses have an "effectiveness...under dispute," Dr. Meldrum contended. Especially for children, simple changes in diet and physical activity could be all that's needed to bring about the necessary reductions in weight needed to live a long, healthy and productive life well into adulthood.
Lest his concerns are misunderstood (which they were!), Dr. Meldrum reiterated that he is open to all methods for treating the obese.
"I am not saying we should not look at how we can medically treat people who are very obese," he asserted. "But to me it is obviously an issue where prevention is better than cure."
I could not be more proud of Dr. Hamish Meldrum from the British Medical Association than I am right now for saying what needed to be said. We need even more fearless leaders in leading positions of health authority willing to speak out on behalf of the truth like this even when it is unpopular. That's the only way we'll ever see meaningful changes come about in regards to obesity and health.
THANK YOU Dr. Meldrum and NEVER stop talking about this issue!
Share your comments with Dr. Hamish Meldrum using this BMA contact page and be sure to share your gratitude to him for being so forthright on an issue of grave importance. Perhaps his American counterparts could follow suit? Yeah right, who am I kidding?!