Team challenging traditional obesity management is itself challenged

Professor Joseph Proietto at work Source: SBS

A group of doctors say the secret to losing weight isn't lifestyle, instead it's genetic, but other obesity experts say their controversial new research just offers an excuse to be overweight. Kirsty Johansen reports.

A quarter of Australian adults are estimated to be clinically obese.

A common view is that obesity is a self-inflicted condition but one Melbourne clinic is challenging that perception.

Austin Health Obesity physician, Professor Joe Proietto, says he treats obesity as a chronic genetic disease.

"The view that obesity is genetic is controversial, however the evidence is very strong that there is a genetic predisposition to obesity."

Doctors at Austin Health feature in a new documentary, trying to treat patients through a combination of diet, medication and surgery tailored specifically for their genetic make-up.

Professor Proietto believes the environment has far less bearing on weight than genetics.

But Sydney University Obesity Research Director, Doctor Nick Fuller, says blaming genetics is only going to make the obesity crisis worse.

"We are finding more and more genes that contribute to obesity but genetics are not the reason for the increase in prevalance of obesity."

Doctor Fuller believes dieting is not the most effective solution.

He believes weight loss should happen slowly, to trick the body into believing it is at a new set weight point.

"They need to lose a small amount of weight before the usual response to weight loss kicks in and maintain that weight so they can reprogram their set weight before going on to lose weight."

Helene Jagdon has been trying to lose weight for 30 years.

She has tried many fad diets and training regimes, without success.

Only in the last few years under Doctor Fuller's strategy has she been able to lose 14 kilograms - and keep it off.

"He didn't make us feel like we were on a diet, he was just guiding us to what foods we can eat and not really saying what foods we can't eat. Just saying if you feel like having a laksa have a laksa but maybe limit it to one takeaway treat in a week."

Now a comfortable 68 kilograms, Helene has maintained her passion of cooking and is inspiring people half her age to lose weight without dramatically changing their lives.


The 3-part documentary The Obesity Myth starts on Monday September 4 at 7:30pm on SBS.


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