Weight loss management ... a new frontier?


A new frontier for weight management: Assess your options carefully


Considering the continued rise in obesity rates in this country coupled with an increase in associated digestive disease burden from conditions such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and select gastrointestinal malignancies, I believe it is now more important than ever for gastroenterologists to familiarize themselves with weight management principles and incorporation into clinical practice. A growing arsenal of tools is available for addressing excess weight, including medications and novel endobariatric techniques. Although the latter is an important consideration in patients with obesity, lifestyle counseling with or without weight loss medications sets the stage for sustainable weight loss success and may eliminate the need for procedural intervention. As such, current guidelines set forth by multiple societies, including the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), emphasize the importance of lifestyle counseling targeting caloric restriction and increased physical activity along with medical augmentation via pharmacological agents in eligible patients.1,2 These guidelines underline the importance of medical weight management prior to consideration of procedural options, including both endobariatrics and more classic bariatric surgeries. This ensures patients understand approaches to weight loss via noninvasive means, reduces risk of weight regain by building foundational habits, and enhances overall success of procedures long term if they are pursued. In addition, newer pharmacological agents are now approaching total body weight loss percentages of currently available endobariatric techniques while still showing high tolerance rates and long-term efficacy, indicating some patients who previously would require procedures to meet weight loss goals may no longer need them.3 Alternatively, these medications may augment efforts prior to procedures, enhancing overall total body weight loss achieved. If patients are not introduced to such options initially and as a part of comprehensive care management planning, they may not achieve the same degree of weight loss success and metabolic optimization.

Carolyn Newberry, Innovative Center for Health and Nutrition in Gastroenterology (ICHANGE), division of gastroenterology, Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York

Dr. Carolyn Newberry

As a gastroenterologist co-leading a multidisciplinary weight management and lifestyle clinic, I have witnessed firsthand the enhanced outcomes in patients who pursue endobariatric procedures after establishing care with a clinical team and attempting (and succeeding) in weight loss via changes in diet, physical activity, and medication use. Patients should be encouraged to gain understanding of one’s own “personal relationship” with food and/or address medical and social barriers to weight loss maintenance prior to procedural intervention, which requires some lead time and ideally professional expertise from multiple team members, including a dietitian. Weight regain after anti-obesity surgery is common, with significant gain occurring in up to half of patients. Several factors have been associated with weight regain, including lack of consistent follow-up, excess calorie and simple carbohydrate intake, and inconsistent physical activity.4 As such, most insurance companies mandate a trial of at least 6 months of lifestyle and/or medical weight management prior to considering procedural reimbursement. Although robust longitudinal data for endobariatric outcomes is not yet available, it is reasonable to believe similar concepts may be in play. In fact, since endobariatric procedures are less invasive but also therefore more temporal (as in the case of endoscopic balloon placement, which is only approved for 6 months of continuous use), behavioral modification and medical management to reduce risk of significant weight regain is even more imperative. Even in the case of more durable procedures, such as endoscopic gastroplasty, lack of compliance with recommended dietary protocols can reduce efficacy by loosening and even ripping sutures prior to establishment of bridging fibrotic mucosal changes, which enhance longevity of the procedure and support continued gastric restriction and reduction in motility. Some patients who undergo endoscopic gastroplasty end up seeking out revision and repeat procedure later due to lack of results, which may be avoided with alternative dietary and lifestyle decisions in the postprocedural state.

The landscape of non-procedural weight management tools has changed in the last 1-2 years with the approval of newer injectable medications that disrupt insulin and hormonal pathways and produce sustainable weight loss similar to reported outcomes achieved with endobariatric procedures. These medications are becoming increasingly accessible and of interest to patients, with continued destigmatization of the use of weight loss drugs in practice, which had previous negative connotations and concerns regarding safety. New guidelines put forth by the AGA recommend adding pharmacological agents to lifestyle interventions over continuing lifestyle interventions alone if adequate weight loss has not been achieved with the latter.3 This further exemplifies the importance of a multifaceted approach to optimize medical weight management as first-line therapy for obesity and associated comorbidities.

In summary, although endobariatric procedures are an important tool for gastroenterologists to incorporate into their weight management plans, they must be implemented with care and only after lifestyle and medical interventions have failed to produce desired results. Shared decision making among providers and patients enhances weight loss efforts and augments sustainability of outcomes. Considering the rapidly evolving landscape of obesity medicine, gastroenterologists need to continue to stay up to date on best practices to improve patient care, reduce associated morbidity, and enhance outcomes of novel endobariatric procedures.

Dr. Newberry is with the Innovative Center for Health and Nutrition in Gastroenterology (ICHANGE), division of gastroenterology, Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York. She disclosed receiving speaker honorariums from Baxter International and InBody USA.


1. Acosta et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017 May;15(5):631-49.

2. Jensen et al. Circulation. 2014;129:S102-38.

3. Grunvald et al. Gastroenterology. 2022;163(5):1198-225.

4. Athansiadis et al. Surg Endosc. 2021 Aug;35(8):4069-84.


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