Weight loss, in the context of medicine, health or physical fitness, is a reduction of the total body mass, due to a mean loss of fluid, body fat or adipose tissue and/or lean mass, namely bone mineral deposits, muscle, tendon and other connective tissue. It can occur unintentionally due to an underlying disease or can arise from a conscious effort to improve an actual or perceived overweight or obese state.
Unintentional weight loss
Unintentional weight loss occurs in many diseases and conditions, including some very serious diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and a variety of other
Poor management of type 1 diabetes mellitus, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), leads to an excessive amount of glucose and an insufficient amount of insulin in the bloodstream. This triggers the release of triglycerides from adipose (fat) tissue and catabolism (breakdown) of amino acids in muscle tissue. This results in a loss of both fat and lean mass, leading to a significant reduction in total body weight. Note that untreated type 1 diabetes mellitus will usually not produce weight loss, as these patients get acutely ill before they would have had time to lose weight.
In addition to weight loss due to a reduction in fat and lean mass, illnesses such as diabetes, certain medications, lack of fluid intake and other factors can trigger fluid loss. Fluid loss in addition to reduction in fat and lean mass exacerbates the risk for cachexia.
Infections such as HIV may alter metabolism, leading to weight loss.
Hormonal disruptions, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), may also exhibit as weight loss.
Recent research has shown fidgeting to result in significant weight loss.
Causes of unintentional weight loss
* Cancer, a very common and sometimes fatal cause of unexplained (idiopathic) weight loss. About one-third of unintentional weight loss cases are secondary to malignancy. Cancers to suspect in patients with unexplained weight loss include gastrointestinal, prostate, hepatobillary (hepatocellular carcinoma, pancreatic cancer), ovarian, hematologic or lung malignancies should be considered in any patient presenting with unexplained weight loss.
* AIDS can cause weight loss and should be suspected in high-risk individuals presenting with weight loss.
* Gastrointestinal disorders are another common cause of unexplained weight loss - in fact they are the most common non-cancerous cause of idiopathic weight loss. Possible gastrointestinal etiologies of unexplained weight loss are celiac disease, a fairly common and well-known disease caused by intolerance of gluten, peptic ulcer, inflammatory bowel disease (crohns disease and ulcerative colitis), pancreatitis, gastritis, diarrhea and many other GI conditions can cause weight loss.
* Infection. Some infectious diseases can cause weight loss. These include fungal illness, endocarditis, many parasitic diseases, AIDS, and some other sub-acute or occult infections may cause weight loss.
* Renal disease. Patients who have uremia often have poor or absent appetite, emesis and nausea. This can cause weight loss.
* Cardiac disease. Cardiovascular disease, especially congestive heart failure, may cause unexplained weight loss.
* Pulmonary disease.
* Connective tissue disease
* Neurologic disease, including dementia
Types of Prescription Weight Loss Drugs
Currently, most available weight loss drugs approved by the FDA are for short-term use, meaning a few weeks or months.
Most available weight-loss medications are "appetite suppressants." These drugs generally come in the form of tablets or extended-release capsules (pills that release medication over a long period of time). Appetite suppressants can be obtained by a doctor's prescription or purchased over the counter. One common appetite suppressant is Meridia.
In the mid-1990s, doctors also prescribed the popular appetite suppressant Redux or the combination of phentermine and fenfluramine, called "phen-fen." However, fenfluramine (Pondimin) and Redux were withdrawn from the market in 1997 because they caused damage to heart valves. Phentermine is still available by prescription. Taking phentermine alone has not been associated with the adverse health effects of the phen-fen combination.
Another type of prescription weight loss drug is a fat absorption inhibitor. Xenical is the only example of this type of treatment approved for use in the U.S. Xenical works by blocking about 30% of dietary fat from being absorbed. Xenical is now sold over-the-counter as Alli.
Meridia and Xenical are the only weight loss drugs approved for longer-term use in significantly obese people, although the safety and effectiveness have not been established for use beyond two years.
Newer drugs are being studied as potential treatments for obesity, some of which are showing promise and may be available in the near future.
The Risks of Prescription Weight Loss Drugs
When considering long-term weight loss drugs for obesity, the following possible concerns and risks should be discussed with your doctor:
* Addiction . Currently, all prescription obesity drugs except Xenical are "controlled substances." This means that doctors are required to follow certain restrictions when prescribing them since they could be addictive.
* Developed tolerance. Most people's weight tends to level off after six months while taking a weight-loss medication. This leads to a concern that the person has developed a tolerance for the medication. However, it is unclear whether this leveling off is indeed due to a developed tolerance or if the drug has reached its limit in effectiveness.
* Side effects. Most side effects of weight loss drugs are mild (although some can be unpleasant) and usually improve as your body adjusts to the medication. Rarely, serious and even fatal outcomes have been reported.
The Side Effects of Prescription Weight Loss Drugs
Most appetite suppressants are used as a short-term treatment for obese people. Not only do the drugs' effects tend to wear off after a few weeks, but they can also have some unpleasant side effects, including:
* Increased heart rate
* Increased blood pressure
* Insomnia (inability to sleep or stay asleep)
* Excessive thirst
* Stuffy nose
* Dry mouth
Some side effects with Xenical include abdominal cramping, passing gas, leakage of oily stool, increased number of bowel movements, and the inability to control bowel movements. These side effects are generally mild and temporary, but may be worsened by eating foods that are high in fat. Patients should eat a low-fat diet (less than 30% of calories from fat) before starting treatment with Xenical. Because Xenical reduces the absorption of some vitamins, people taking Xenical should take a multivitamin at least two hours before or after taking the medication.
People with poorly controlled high blood pressure, heart disease, irregular heartbeat, or a history of stroke should not take Meridia. All people taking Meridia should have their blood pressure and heart rate monitored on a regular basis.
Because these drugs are not recommended for long-term use, it is important for people who are trying to lose weight to learn new eating habits and to exercise while the drug is still effective. Once healthy eating and regular exercise have been learned and established, it is important to continue eating right and exercising if you hope to continue losing weight and keep lost weight from returning.
Weight loss drugs are not for everybody. For example, there are limited studies on these medications' effects on older adults and on children.
Disclaimer: This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regime, it is advisible to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.