11 Medical Weight Loss Treatments Examined

weight loss

Want to lose weight? For some, sticking to a regimen of good diet and exercise will help shed pounds.

But for others, an extra edge -- or a major medical intervention -- may be necessary to return to a healthy weight.

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Diet surgeries and pills may hold the appeal of giving something for very little -- in other words, losing weight without the pain of watching what you eat and working out. But many medical interventions require those same lifestyle changes in order to work properly.

And while many weight interventions seem promising, they don't necessarily pan out in the long run.

As many learn from watching public figures' weights go up and down, the initial positive effects from a diet may reverse as the weight comes back some time later.

And many drug trials don't last long enough to determine whether the weight that is lost ever comes back.

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The following pages take a look at some of the medications and procedures that have made headlines in recent years.


What is it? On Monday, Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc., the makers of Contrave, announced that they had completed clinical trials for the weight loss drug.

In a one-year study, the drug was found to reduce the weight of people taking it by 8 percent (around 17 pounds), versus people taking a placebo.

Contrave combines a drug to combat depression and smoking with a drug prescribed for alcohol and opiate addiction. These have the effect of reducing the body's cravings for food.

Availability: While clinical trials have wrapped up, the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved Contrave.

Pros and Cons: While Contrave exceeded the FDA's benchmarks for weight loss, it has met with some skepticism from diet experts.

Any effects it has when taken by the general public remain to be seen.

Glucagon and GLP-1 Peptide

What is it? Never heard of it? As the lack of a single name for this weekly injection suggests, it isn't available commercially. In fact, it only recently completed testing in mice.

The injections use a combination of two drugs to target two body systems. One targets the body's metabolism, speeding it up, while the other suppresses the appetite. In mice, a single injection was able to reduce body weight by 25 percent and fat mass by 42 percent.

It's unclear how those results would translate in humans, who, like the mice in the study, would likely get one shot on a weekly basis.

Availability: Excellent and free -- for some of the lab mice in the chemistry department at the University of Indiana. For people who want to get a hold of this treatment, it won't be available for some time, if ever. And, as with many other treatments, the fact that it worked in mice is no guarantee that it will work in humans at all.

Pros and Cons: While the idea of this treatment ultimately helping people lose weight has given many a positive outlook -- an important first step in any dieting regime -- its lack of availability and possible failure in humans makes it a nonstarter right now.


What is it? Orlistat was originally approved by the FDA in 1999 as the prescription drug Xenical to help treat obesity. In early 2007, a lower-dose variation on the drug was approved for over-the-counter use under the brand name Alli.

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