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weight-loss revolutions, cutting-edge SMBG, and a one-of-a-kind diaTribe giveaway…

Published: 3/31/12
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Obesity is in the news these days, and at a recent medical conference that we attended in Brazil in late March called “Controversies in Obesity, Diabetes, and Hypertension,” Dr. Sam Klein put things in perspective by noting that the excitement surrounding the field has never been higher.

Dr. Klein, from Washington University in St. Louis, may be on to something.

And then, it’s funny the way things work. I had been thinking about Dr. Klein’s comments when I got a call last week from Jeff Hyman, CEO of Retrofit, a very cool new “wellness” startup. He was going to be in the neighborhood, and I invited him promptly to stop by. I had remembered speaking with him about a year earlier and thought he was one of the smartest guys in awhile in terms of thinking of how to help us all be healthier. And, boy did we have an interesting talk last Monday at our office on Haight Street. We’re always looking for innovative new thinking about how people might be able to improve their health in a sustainable way - weight-loss programs come and go, but what I heard about Retrofit really intrigued me. So Jeff came in, and described his company’s program, which involves a personalized plan made with help from three wellness experts – a dietitian, an exercise physiologist, and a behavior coach – all of whom follow up with calls every three weeks via video conference (one call a week – not so bad!). What really impressed me was that the program seems very data-driven, with a Fitbit tracker (think 21st-century pedometer – this is included in the membership, and all your steps are automatically recorded in the ‘Cloud’) and a wireless scale to measure daily progress (whether you want it recorded or not!).

One thing that I really liked about Retrofit is that it’s guided by some really smart thinking about behavior by Dr. Robert Kushner, who is an internationally recognized obesity expert that we have listened to speak at many conferences over the last decade. His involvement in the company said a lot to me.

Finally and most importantly (and very related to Dr. Kushner’s work), Retrofit emphasizes sustainable goals – 10% body-weight loss in three months (or 15% in six months), with a guarantee that the weight won’t be regained within a year. Retrofit isn’t cheap (it costs $250 a month), and it’s not as simple as a crash diet, but we are really interested in seeing if it works – if it does, this may well be something that insurance companies and employers could pay for. The costs of obesity exceeded $100 billion last year, so there’s a lot of savings to be had if programs that lead to healthy, long-term behavior changes can be made. Now there’s a lot that has to go right in order to get the costs down, but we liked this company’s style quite a lot. See below for the special diaTribe discount that Retrofit is making possible (thank you!). We will be writing a test drive on Retrofit later this year and will be very eager to see firsthand how the program works.

In related news on the weight management front,  The New England Journal of Medicine just published two randomized studies earlier this week showing that bariatric surgery can have dramatic benefits on people with type 2 diabetes who are obese. Although these were small, one- to two-year studies, they also bode well for those not interested in surgery – researchers like Dr. Richard Bergman (Cedars Sinai, Los Angeles, CA) and Dr. Lee Kaplan (Mass General, Boston, MA) are both working on developing compounds to mimic the results of bariatric surgery, which do appear to reverse type 2 diabetes in many patients at least short term.

Another exciting update is that the FDA could approve the weight-loss drug Qnexa in just a few weeks – we would applaud this happening and believe that patients may actually be getting some new options, which would be very positive news in our view. We had the chance to speak at FDA in favor of this and hope that we’ll see positive results, along with more research that helps ensure long-term safety.

So between creative new lifestyle interventions, potential new therapy, and even surgery for the right patients, it’s an exciting time for obesity indeed.

Making smarter decisions and building healthier habits are timely topics in the world of glucose meters as well. This month in test drive, managing editor Adam Brown gives firsthand accounts of three meters designed to translate new technologies into more useful, user-friendly testing. (As for the next, next-gen of BGM, Kerri Morrone Sparling shares her wish list in this month’s SUM Musings.) Testing five times daily is quite a different challenge than losing five pounds and keeping them off. But with fingersticks – as with weight loss – every change for the better is a welcome one.

If you’ve read this far, you might be in luck, because Retrofit is not only offering 30% discounts for every diaTribe reader, but also a free yearlong membership to the first reader that calls and signs up at 1-800-975-7198 (please call this number to get the discount as well).

Dial away to get the free offer! And be well!

Yours,

Kelly L. Close

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