We hear all the time about how technology is bad for us. Since the introduction of computers. Even people working on App Development have the same issues, we spend more time sitting at a desk than moving around at work. We have created this sedentary lifestyle that is causing havoc in our overall life.
What if I were to tell you that technology has produced benefits? Would you believe me if I said that technology is good for your health?
Most of you wouldn’t look at first. Well, you may be able to think of a couple of ways that the computer has helped, but you are still stuck on all the negatives that ‘experts’ have shared in the past. The problem with the ‘experts’ is that they are only focused on the negatives. They haven’t looked at so many of the benefits.
So, that’s what we’ll do today. We’ll consider all the ways that technology improves our health. We’ll discuss just how it has boosted results in certain areas of healthcare and what it does for us daily.
Technology Is Everywhere in Medicine
Before we do move onto all the benefits, it’s worth discussing just how technology is used. It is found everywhere in medicine. Think about the x-ray machines, MRI scanners, and even the research equipment used daily.
There are people using it every day of the week to find cures to ailments, discover why diseases spread and creating ways to prevent the diseases. There are individuals performing tasks far more accurately than they ever did before, with keyhole surgery now a popular option for some of the most routine medical needs.
And the technology isn’t just in the hospital. It’s used in your own doctor’s office and even at home. It’s used to prolong life and create a better quality of life for those on around the clock care.
The improvements don’t just lead to better physical health. They support better mental health, which in turn improves the physical health. Technology improves connections and relationships, offering support to everyone.
We can’t get rid of technology. If we did, we would suffer greatly. Here are just eight ways that technology is improving our health and our lives.
It Pushes Us to Do More Activity
Sure, technology has led to us sitting more. And sitting is the new smoking when it comes to health problems. However, technology has also helped to push us to do more activity.
We just must take the examples of the Fitbit, pedometers, and apps that track our steps. They all encourage us to meet our daily targets—setting personal targets to get us to walk more and meet the goals that we know are realistic to us. While there is the goal to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, that just doesn’t seem realistic for many. The pedometers and smartphone apps give us more control.
The chances are that as we get closer to a goal, we’re going to work harder to achieve it. We see how we do daily and look for ways to improve the chances of meeting those goals. They don’t mean getting to the gym daily. They just involve getting out and doing more like the team at Techwitty . Some can involve doing home workouts and even walk on the spot to increase our step count.
There isn’t much that we need to do to set up these pieces of technology. Most of them involve some type of phone app or computer software just to sign up and create free accounts. We sync devices, and we get to go off and work our ways to being healthier and fitter.
The devices also come with different settings. Some are just designed to count your steps. They’re basic items to get you to do a little more throughout the day. Those who want to increase the amount of exercise they do and track their heart rate will be able to get more advanced options. Some will have exercise modes, count stairs, count calories burned, and even monitor your sleep.
The aim for so many of these new devices isn’t just to improve your activity levels. They are there to improve your overall lifestyle. Devices are set to help you live a healthier and more fulfilling life, helping you monitor your sleep patterns and make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. There’s more to them than just improving one element of your life and making sure your whole body and mind are working together to create a better quality of life.
These apps and devices can also monitor your weight loss efforts. They help you stick within a healthy BMI, so you focus on protecting your heart health. You will feel better for it, knowing that you can keep yourself from accidentally going over regarding calories throughout the day or over a certain weight. Of course, being within a healthy weight range is essential to help keep yourself healthy overall.
These are all personal devices. There’s no major cost for them, with many of them available for less than $200. Some of the apps are completely free to download, so you don’t even need to spend a penny on technology to improve your health.
Better Ability for Communication Between Doctors and Patients
With technology being widely available, there are chances that everyone has some sort of access to doctor and health websites. These sites can create chat boxes and instant messengers, where real doctors and nurses can monitor communications. When a patient comes on with a question, the doctors and nurses can provide factual answers and share their thoughts and advice.
Better ability to communicate is essential for keeping the health protected. It helps to keep the questions over information online to a minimum and reduces the number of people queuing up in the hospital with fears they are dying. The people online can read the symptoms and share their beliefs based on them, helping to minimize worry.
Individuals who do need to seek medical help will be able to get to the hospital or their own doctor right away. They can take the transcript of the chats to aid with a discussion of the symptoms and working through the reasons for certain medical beliefs. They also have a better understanding of how doctors or nurses come to certain decisions.
Those who don’t need to seek immediate medical attention can reduce their anxiety over their health. This helps to improve the health since anxiety leads to stress and that leads to high blood pressure and other health problems!
People who avoid doctors fearing that they are wasting time can get confirmation that they need to get the help. That’s that fear of people thinking they are silly for their thought processes eliminated, so they have more confidence in discussing all their health problems with their doctor.
When chat boxes aren’t available, telephones have made it easier to communicate and talk to a genuine doctor or nurse. This is the case with many emergency medical phone numbers, who can then arrange out of hours’ appointment when the case is necessary.
Getting people seen immediately protects their health. It also helps to reduce a number of times they will need to visit a doctor and keep the waiting times down since the minor ailments are taken care of before they can turn into something major.
More Ability to Do Research into Problems
The internet has certainly opened the ability to research. We all tend to turn to Google, calling it Dr. Google at times. The search engine allows you to input your symptoms or ask questions about a certain symptom to find out all the ailments that involve them/it. People can look through a list of other symptoms to determine the chances of suffering from certain ailments.
This is useful when it comes to determining whether to speak to a doctor. An individual can get the basic information and use it to decide whether their condition needs immediate attention. They can also use that basic research to get onto the chat boxes to get the advice from real doctors and nurses, as mentioned above.
Those that already have a diagnosis can take to the internet to do their own research into it. This is especially the case for a condition that they haven’t heard of before or that could be hereditary. They want to find out future symptoms, especially if it is a condition that doesn’t have a form of treatment or cure.
Individuals can find out if there are natural remedies that they can try and talk to others with the same condition. They can follow blogs for people who have that same condition and are living with it. They get to hear about success stories with treatments and learn about support groups in the area. This is especially important for treatments that are either terminal or lead to a lower quality of living.
Those caring for people with certain conditions can also get some support and help. There will be support groups online for carers and advice for people who care for individuals 24/7. Suddenly, the world doesn’t seem as isolating, which can quickly help to improve the mental health. People have more confidence in their abilities and find someone who can listen to vents or problems without judgment and with full understanding—friends are good, but they’re not always able to be the most supportive.
It is important to use the internet sparingly. Unfortunately, it can also have the opposite effect and make the health worse. You spend all this time researching conditions and fearing the worst, and you end up with problems with anxiety. You can end up researching more than talking to a real doctor, hearing about the horror stories of other patients. It’s important to take a step away and look out for success stories and real doctors’ opinions to help balance out some of the negatives.
When you are on websites, you will also need to check where the information is coming from. Who writes it and is it checked by someone in the medical profession? Does the person write a personal blog really suffer from the same condition? People can write absolutely anything, and there is plenty of misinformation online.
There are reputable medical websites. They usually include links to official studies and reports to help you get all the medical information that you could need. They will consider both pharmaceutical and herbal remedies to help you save money and put your health first. Check the reviews and reputation of any website before you start looking through the information and start trusting it!
There Are Devices That Keep the Body Working as It Should
Some devices are created purposely to help promote a healthy body. They are placed inside or outside to help keep the body working as it should. There are also other types of treatments that cause reactions in the body to support organs and the overall health.
The pacemaker is just one that will come to mind for everyone. This is a device created for those who have heart problems. The pacemaker helps to send electrical currents into the heart to prevent it from suffering from spasms. This little device is a lifesaver for so many people. It keeps the heart pumping as it should, which will support the rest of the body.
This is one of those small devices that you will barely know that you have. It can be used on the young and the old to protect the heart and make sure it works exactly like it is supposed to. In one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, a 16-year-old girl was fitted with a pacemaker to stop seizures, which turned out to be a side effect of a heart defect rather than epilepsy.
The small electrical device is battery-less and powered by the heart’s rhythms. Those without it would live shorter lives and must restrict the things they do, as there will always be the risk of the heart’s natural rhythm and beat getting out of sync.
Pacemakers aren’t the only devices that help to keep the body working as it should. Bypass machines also help to sustain organ health while waiting for treatments or transplants. They are also used throughout surgeries to protect the health while undergoing some transplants and operations. For example, heart bypass machines are regularly used during some cardiac operations and for heart transplants. Without them, there is a higher risk of bleeding out and death on the operation table.
Bypass helps to change the flow of the blood. It isn’t just used for the heart and can be used for the kidneys for operations that involve the intestines, colon, and other organs around this area. Bypass helps to keep the other organs working as they should while going through the operations to ensure a fully healthy life afterward.
There is now technology that keeps organs working while they are outside of the body. This helps to keep organs working while they are in the middle of transplants, which is exceptionally important when it comes to heart transplants.
This is another side of medicine that was touched on in Grey’s Anatomy. Cristina looked after a heart that was in a box—the technology kept the heart pumping until the time came to place it into the recipient’s body. It is a very real side of medicine that is being adapted and improved. Without it, there would be people on the transplant list that would need to wait longer for a replacement. They could end up dying or others lower down on the list would lose out on transplants because they can’t be moved up.
The use of technology to keep organs alive outside of the body will also help to reduce the problem of long donor lists. While the donor organ may not be a match for anyone immediately or anyone within a hospital immediately, the organ can be kept alive while waiting for a recipient to become eligible.
But can’t organs be used without being ‘kept alive.’ There is the use of ice, and organs are sent around countries without being kept alive by a machine. However, there is a risk that the organs won’t work when they get into the recipient’s body. They have lost the blood flow during transition causing other problems. The technology eliminates that issue.
Without the advances in technology, there would certainly be people who are left without. The transplant list would grow longer, and people would remain on the lists until they die.
Better Treatment Options for Various Ailments and Diseases
It’s no secret that treatments have advanced in recent years to the point where some ailments are virtually unheard of. Vaccinations and various medical advances have completely eradicated the likes of smallpox and led to the point where polio is now less common and far more treatable.
Some of the advances have only come in the last few years, and are all due to technology. We’re able to do more research and test without the use of animals and humans. There are ways to create vaccinations and treatments without putting people at risk, increasing the chance of a better quality of life. Just look at how HIV treatments have changed since the disease was noted in the early 1980s. It is now at a point where the virus doesn’t have the chance to develop into AIDS.
There are treatments for small and major ailments. Even cancer patients have better life expectancies than they would have done in earlier years. There is the technology for earlier diagnosis and treatments to eradicate the cancerous cells. While not all is successful, there are certainly some positive steps—and that is all because of technology advancements.
Some of the treatments are to help keep the body working until a cure or transplant is possible. For example, dialysis is used by many patients waiting for organ transplants. Dialysis helps to remove the waste from the body when the kidneys will no longer do the work for them. This is an intermediate treatment option to keep someone alive while they wait for a kidney transplant.
Others will be on other machines and treatments while they wait for aliver, heart, and other transplants. Technology has helped to prolong life, allowing them the time that they need. Some technology has even helped them live some sort of life outside of hospitals, rather than be hooked to machines.
There isn’t just a physical benefit to these treatments. The benefits have helped to support the mental health. Being stuck in a hospital bed forever is boring and depressing. Patients start to worry about the bills that are mounting up and the loss of time with their friends and family members. When they are in a positive mindset, the patients are more likely to fight against the ailments that are keeping them tied down to machines. They are in a better state to accept transplants and focus on fighting infections and diseases. Their positive mindsets help the treatments work, and this is all because of the technology advancements.
And we can’t forget about the ongoing research. This isn’t just about the treatment options but how the viruses work and adapt. While there are vaccinations and treatments available, there is always something new that comes out. Viruses adapt to their environment to avoid being wiped out completely in some cases. They mix with other viruses or bacteria to create a far more superior virus.
Technology helps to assess when this happens. Scientists can locate the newly created viruses and get to work almost immediately on a cure. There is the ability to transform some viruses into cures and help to create vaccines and treatments that have never been heard of before. It’s because of technology that the medical field can keep adapting.
Better technology has also made scans clearly. People can get better angles and catch problems early. Doctors can perform surgeries and use treatments that were never possible, simply because they couldcatch conditions before they advanced too far.
To top all this off, technology has opened the chance of developing organs and valves. While Grey’s Anatomy is just a TV show, it does rely on the current medical research and ideas. There are studies into 3D printing organs and heart valves to help support the health and life of an individual. The printing would use a person’s own cells to reduce the risk of rejecting organs, improving life expectancy and treatment of conditions.
There is still a long way to go until all the research is finished. In fact, it will never be finished. However, technology is opening doors to improve the health in ways that wouldn’t have been imagined just 50 years ago,
Improved Prediction of Diagnosis and Life Expectancy
Ever wondered if you could get a disease later in life? Maybe you wonder if a current symptom is a sign that you could develop a condition. You could even wonder just how long you have left to live when you are diagnosed with a condition.
Technology has helped to improve the prediction process of a diagnosis. Doctors will have information all in one place and can see all the symptoms at the same time. They have formulas to work out averages of when a condition occurs.
You get this type of risk assessment, and doctors will be able to predict if you are more likely to suffer from a certaintype of disease or ailment.
We just must look at the pre-diabetes checks. You may have been told that you are a pre-diabetic. This doesn’t mean that you currently have it but that you have a high risk of developing it if you continue in the way that you are going. Before technology advances, you would have only found out about diabetes once you started suffering from it. There wouldn’t have been the warning signs to help you change your lifestyle to prevent it from occurring.
In some cases, you wouldn’t have even known that you have the side effects. You wouldn’t have known that you had a disease until is cause a serious medical issue and even death. Doctors didn’t have the ability to predict anything because it was so difficult to get all the information.
Technology has made it possible for information to be kept in one place, updated in real life. Once blood test results come back, they can be added directly to your file; a file that is visible by any doctor by looking up your own details. Your family doctor has your hospital records, even if the records have nothing to do with a current ailment.
While looking at all this information, doctors can see similarities and warning signs earlier. They can see symptoms that crossover and lead to specific conditions—similarities that could have been overlooked due to loss of paperwork or not having all the information in one place.
At the same time as predicting a condition, doctors can use technology to work out how long you must live. There are plenty of cases in history where individuals have lost out on events because they have been given a life expectancy that isn’t right. Doctors give people six months to live and then find out three years later that they are still alive and could have done some of the things they wanted. At the same time, people are given years to live, and then their health deteriorates within six months because the doctors got it wrong.
Technology has allowed for the creation of algorithms. Doctors can input certain figures and information into the algorithm to get the information that they need. There is more information stored about other patients with the same condition to help ensure that the algorithms got it right. There is just far more accuracy to help with the life expectancy prediction because of technology.
With better prediction, people aren’t just living healthier and changing their overall lifestyle. Their mental health is supported. Patients find that they can act and are more interested in doing so.
Gene mapping has also become a technological advancement to help with the prediction of conditions. Patients no longer need to have early symptoms to make changes to their lives. Doctors can look at the genes to determine if they are at a risk of developing certain health conditions.
This has become popular for some of the most damaging conditions for the whole family. People want to know if they have the genes that put them at a higher risk of breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.
Angelina Jolie is just one celebrity that stands out when it comes to this technological advancement. She found out that she had a high risk of developing breast cancer and decided to take preventative measures to avoid it by having a mastectomy. Many patients before her have had to wait until cancer has occurred and hoped there is a treatment, but she could prevent the heartbreak for her family and protect her health because of technology.
Cervical screening for women has improved thanks to technology. Researchers will see when cells are abnormal between tests to make sure that there are no earlier signs of cancer. While the cells could be abnormal for other reasons, patients get the help they need immediately to avoid lifelong and potentially terminal diseases.
Faster and More Accurate Diagnosis of Conditions
While the prediction side of diagnosis is improved, technology also improves the accuracy of a diagnosis. Like before, doctors gather all the information in one place and will be able to keep an eye on results more closely. They can also put together symptoms and signs sooner than before, meaning an earlier diagnosis for many people.
There have been many cases where doctors just haven’t had all the information. In some cases, the conditions are so rare that doctors haven’t even bothered considering them. Instead, individuals are treated for conditions that are more common or more believed to have. The treatments do nothing, and by the time they are diagnosed with the rightcondition, there is nothing they can do.
People lose out on time with their family due to a lack of diagnosis or incorrect treatment. They lose out because the diagnosis has just taken too long—and not because of inaccuracy for the doctors.
In some cases, the technology hasn’t been fast enough to get blood work back. Technology has been too poor to assess all the symptoms, or the waiting list is too long, so patients lose out. Scans aren’t clear enough, so earlier symptoms aren’t picked up in time.
This slowness of diagnosis means that people don’t get the treatments soon enough. Their conditions advance and may become untreatable and terminal. This is the case with some cancers, as it takes so long to get the diagnosis that the treatments spread.
The accurate diagnosis means more accurate treatments. There are cases where treatments can make a condition worse if it is used in the wrong way or has been given the wrong diagnosis. For example, some over the counter medications can make the chicken pox virus far more severe and cause hospital admission.
Technology Improves Recording of Information in Real Time
Many of the benefits mentioned above rely on an accurate and timely recording of information. There is no denying that recording of symptoms between doctors has led to issues of conditions not being diagnosed and the right treatment not being administered.
Before computers, doctors would write all the information on charts. They would document it through paperwork, and that paperwork would need to be sent to various doctors. If you changed family doctor, there was a chance of the information going missing. If you went to see a different doctor in between visits, such as at the hospital or a locum, you ran the risk of the information not being sent to your regular doctor.
Some key symptoms are often missed. It’s up to the patient to remember to share the previous symptoms with their regular doctor to make sure all the information is up to date.
Blood work information and other paperwork would take thetime to be sent through practices. Individuals were left waiting for phone calls for diagnosis and treatments, and we’ve already looked at how that could lead to problems.
Technology has made it better for the recording of information. This initially started with the use of larger computers. While paperwork would still be used, the information could be typed up, and doctors around the country could get the information and any symptoms. They could make a more accurate diagnosis.
However, this didn’t help when it came to immediate diagnosis needs. There were also issues with inaccurate reporting. Some doctors wouldn’t do their paperwork or would miss out things that patients said. Others who were trying to transcribe notes may not have been able to read handwriting, so elements were missing.
This is where technology continues to advance. Many doctors will now update the information on tablets and smart devices. They all have the software that allows for easier and far more accurate reporting. The information is updated in real time, meaning other doctors will be able to get the information later.
If you return, doctors will be able to see how often you are in. They will be able to look at previous visits quickly. This means they can spot any precursors or underlying problems, as we’ve already discussed above.
There is the ability for the software to alert doctors to a problem. Doctors may have set the wrong dosage for medication, or there may be an issue with crashing medication. Doctors can stop themselves in their tracks and make sure your health is put first.
The better recording also helps with communication between doctors and patients. Patients feel like their health is being put first, so they are likely to be more forthcoming. They don’t feel ignored or like certain symptoms are being dismissed.
There Are Two Sides to Technology
Technology has helped to improve the health. It will continue to do this as there are more advancements made.
There is no denying that technology can be bad. We are at a point where we sit more because we don’t have the need to go outside anymore. Socializing is possible online, and recreation is often spent watching TV shows and movies. ‘Experts’ tend to focus on all these negatives of technology, without really focusing on the ways that technology is helping us.
While a lot of the advancements have meant that doctors have it easier. These advancements have helped us as patients. We will find it easier to get a more accurate diagnosis, and the treatments are more likely to work. It’s easier to make changes to our lifestyle because technology has noted the warning signs that we are more likely to suffer from something if we stick to our current paths.
There are ways that technology helps us daily. Smartphone apps and small devices have led to the ability for us to track our health and any symptoms. Fitbit and pedometers track the steps that we take, encouraging us to do far more exercise than we usually would. Food tracking apps help us to keep our calorie intake under control or boost the amount of water that we drink. Symptom trackers make it possible to keep an eye on potential health problems.
We can also get in touch with doctors and nurses much easier. We no longer must pay a fortune to see our family doctor and clog up the waiting room, feeling like we are wasting someone’s time. Technology opens the doors to discuss symptoms online and get advice immediately. This could make all the difference in getting the treatment we need.
And it’s not just about the physical health. Technology opens the doors to getting the mental and social support when it comes to living with a condition or caring for someone. There are support forums online and places to go to do our own research. We feel far more control in life and with our condition, and we can focus on holistic approaches. A better mental health will help to improve our physical health since we have a better chance of fighting infections.
Don’t just write technology off. This is something that really can improve our lives and our health. It just must be used in the right way.
Computer Scientists based at the University of Bath are experimenting with conductive seams to track all physical activity.
According to the scientists, these charged seams are powerful enough to detect even subtle movements that a smartwatch or a fitness app would miss.
Conductive seams in clothing yield data that can be analyzed to gain a better understanding of how the wearer moves.
“There are lots of potential applications for conductive yarn in any activity where you want to identify and improve the quality of a person’s movement,” explained Ph.D. student Olivia Ruston at Bath. “This could be very helpful in physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and sports performance.”
They are not the first team of scientists to create textile sensors for use in clothing, but it is the first project that focuses on using conductive seams.
This study has uncovered how the number of conductive seams and their placement on garments affects the yarn’s ability to record information.
“There’s great potential to exploit the wearing of clothing and tech – many people are experimenting with e-textiles,” Ruston said, “but we don’t have a coherent understanding between technologists and fashion designers, and we need to link these groups up so we can come up with the best ideas for embedding tech into clothing.”
Ruston’s team of scientists is working with a special kind of yarn. This yarn is built with a unique conductive core made from a hybrid material designed to sense pressure and stretch. This hybrid is made from a metal-polymer combination.
The yarn is woven into the seam of a garment and then activated, strictly at low voltages. The wearer’s body movements will bring about variations in the resistance of the yarn and tension within the seams.
The researchers used a microcontroller to relay the voltage signal from the seams and onto a computer.
Co-author Professor Mike Fraser explains that their work will influence the fashion industry: “Our work provides implications for sensing-driven clothing design.” Fraser is the head of computer science at the University of Bath. “As opportunities for novel clothing functionality emerge, we believe intelligent seam placement will play a key role in influencing design and manufacturing processes. Ultimately, this could influence what is considered fashionable.”
A Tattoo that lets you know when you are Ill
Scientists have long been interested in implanting sensors that can monitor changes in body chemistry. Such sensors could prove useful for tracking the progress of diseases or how well a patient is responding to treatment.
The downside to such sensors is that they couldn’t remain inside long enough and end up losing their effectiveness or getting rejected by the body the longer they stayed inside.
A team of scientists based at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany (JGU) has now succeeded in building a sensor that can remain in the body for months on end after implantation.
Built from modified gold nanoparticles that have unique receptors for particular molecules, the sensors get implanted underneath the skin and come encased in artificial tissue.
What makes the gold nanoparticles so remarkable is the way they change color in response to changes in their environment. The researchers wanted to take advantage of this feature to create color-changing tattoos.
“Our sensor is like an invisible tattoo, not much bigger than a penny and thinner than one millimeter,” clarified JGU Nanobiotechnology Group head Prof Carsten Soennichsen.
Published in the Nano Letters journal, the study involved researchers testing the sensors on hairless rats. As the rats received antibiotic doses, researchers noticed the sensors changing color.
The scientists used a non-invasive instrument to detect changes in color. They observed that the sensors stayed stable and continued working for months.
“As they [the nanoparticles] can be easily coated with different receptors, they are an ideal platform for implantable sensors,” said Dr. Katharina Kaefer, who was the lead author of the study.
So far, it seems that gold nanoparticle sensors have a place in our future. They may prove useful in drug development by monitoring drugs and biomarkers in our bodies. They may also work in medical research, chronic disease management, or medicine.
Is the New Appetite-Controlling Drug the Answer to Obesity?
Weekly semaglutide injections have helped patients lose more than 15kgs. Might this be a magic bullet in the fight against obesity?
We need efficient ways to treat and prevent obesity, even as we fight COVID-19. 29% of women and 26% of men in the UK, according to NHS in data published in 2020 May, were presumed to be obese. These individuals had a body mass index higher than 30.
The situation has now gotten worse thanks to a widespread lockdown-related gain in weight. Obese patients are not only likely to die due to COVID-19; but even worse, University of Glasgow researchers’ recent estimates suggest that obesity might have overtaken smoking as a cause of ill health in Scotland and England.
A healthy balanced diet and suitable physical exercise could prevent weight gain. But this is not considered an effective treatment against obesity. Consuming a very low-calorie diet of not more than 1,000 kcal a day might result in losing about 10 to 15kgs within 12 weeks.
A more modest, cautious calorie restriction prescribed by several commercial slimming plans could cause an average annual weight loss of about 7kgs. However any weight lost through these methods can be regained. And you need another approach to keep the wright off.
To date, various drugs formulated to treat obesity are either inefficient in clinical practice or have harmful side effects like anal leakage or higher blood pressure. Bariatric surgery is the only reliable treatment for critical obesity at the moment, but long-term side effects and risks accompany it.
A series of peptide hormones regulate energy expenditure and appetite. These hormones are released in the intestine. Bariatric surgery works because it changes the gut response to food intake and how it communicates with the brain.
Specifically, glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) is produced in the ileum in the last section of small intestines. GLP-1 responds to foods containing carbohydrates. Insulin synthesis is thereby promoted and secretion by the pancreas, but it affects the stomach by reducing the digestive system movements and secretion of acid.
The UK researchers published their findings on semaglutide in the New England Journal of Medicine led by John Wilding, in February. They found that a drug mimicking GLP-1 that was initially intended for diabetes treatment caused considerable weight loss in type 2 diabetes patients.
The researchers worked with 1,962 patients, of whom 75% were female. Of these, 13% were Asian, 6% black, and 75% white. Their average body mass index was 38. Patients were randomly divided into 2 equal groups. One group received semaglutide weekly injections, while the control group received placebo injections for 68 weeks. Both groups got lifestyle advice and diet.
The semaglutide group lost an average of 15.3kgs in contrast to 2.6 from the control group. The treatment effect difference in the two groups was 12.7kgs weight loss.
The treatment as successfully reduced blood pressure by 5.1mmHg, and the patients reported better physical functioning. The treatment’s major side effects included nausea, diarrhea, and occasional vomiting. And to those on active treatment, there were more frequent gastrointestinal disorders. Of more concern may be the accelerated danger of pancreatitis and gallbladder disease.
As these high-quality trials show, semaglutide causes remarkable weight loss compared to other drugs tested so far. What happens after the treatment ends is uncertain. Preventing the weight from piling back on is a great challenge, and the lesson learned from bariatric surgery is that patients should avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and unhealthy snacking. Smaller portions of calorie-dense foods help.
The research findings need to be confirmed with a more ethnically diverse population with a higher proportion of males. From a practical standpoint, the drug injection’s weekly requirement is more likely to curb a more significant rollout of the treatment. Oral preparations of the drug are still under trials.
While semaglutide appears promising as an obesity treatment, it is not exactly a magic bullet. We should continue to promote a healthy lifestyle as well as discourage unhealthy eating habits that lead to obesity.
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