Obesity is on the rise and has doubled over the past few decades.
It is well known that the prevalence of obesity has reached epidemic proportions, and that the disease is associated with various health risks, morbidity, and even mortality.
Obesity, defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) value of 30 kg/m2 or greater, has been a major focus in intervention studies. Investigators are currently in search for safe and effective treatment options to reduce the risk of the associated health hazards, such as increased risk of:
* diabetes mellitus
* cardiopulmonary and thromboembolic disease
* and sudden cardiac death.
In fact, the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference on the “Health Implications of Obesity” confirmed the need for effective treatments for obesity and stressed the urgency of reducing the mortality rates associated with the disease.
The panel concluded that individuals who are as little as 20% over their ideal weight are at an increased risk of morbidity and mortality, compared to those of average weight, and that one-fourth of all adult Americans are at least this much overweight.
It is quite clear that obesity is a major health problem and that the most important step in preventing obesity, or reversing obesity for an obese individual, is losing the excess weight.
Unfortunately, a very small proportion of those individuals who need to lose the excess weight are successful.
In 1959, a literature review indicated that less than 5% of obese individuals who need to lose greater than 18kg were successful.
Since then several methods of weight reduction have been developed, which include:
* hypo-caloric balanced diets
* behavior modification
* and a combination of these methods.
Unfortunately, most methods have proven to produce only transient weight loss and are often accompanied by dangerous, adverse side effects.
Nearly 50 years of extensive research, however, has resulted in some progress in the treatment of obesity, and the use of very-low-calorie-diets (VLCDs) has significantly contributed to this progress.
Indeed, the most significant recent development in the medical treatment of obesity is the extensive use of VLCDs, which result in rapid and substantial weight loss.