The process to lose weight is very difficult for the majority of people. In fact, around 95 percent of people who start a diet without additional help will fail or gain the weight back within 12 months. This is discouraging news for people who have a few pounds (or more than a few pounds) to lose. However, a new procedure where doctors freeze nerves may be able to assist in the effort to lose weight.
In a recent news release video, Dr. David Prologo, an interventional radiologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta stated that the reason for how difficult it is to lose weight is due to “the body’s backlash to the calorie restriction.”
Evolutionarily, our bodies are hardwired to crave calories and try to get as many as we can. In the early formation of humanity, food was hard to come by and storing excess calories as fat was a distinct advantage and allowed us to go longer without food when supplies were scarce. The problem in 2018 is that, for the majority of people, securing access to food is no longer an issue. With a prevalent supply of stuff to eat, it’s difficult to lose weight because our bodies keep storing it as fact – not getting the memo that it doesn’t need to build these reserves.
Prologo recently conducted a trial that seeks to freeze nerves that control hunger in order to help more people lose weight and keep it off.
When doctors freeze nerves – in this case, the posterior vagal trunk – it affects the ability of the nerves to get their job done. By freezing the posterior vagal trunk – a portion of the larger vagus nerve that helps control the heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal system – participants felt less hungry and ended up losing a good amount of weight over time and successfully kept it off.
To freeze nerves, Prologo and his team tried a minor surgical procedure on the participants. A probe was inserted into the patients back and froze the nerve for two minutes, using the guidance of live images from a CT scan. By managing to freeze nerves, Prologo was able to shut down the hunger signal.
This experiment was only meant to test the safety of the process to freeze nerves, but participants managed to lose a good amount of weight over time. All participants were overweight, between the ages of 27 to 66, and had BMIs ranging from 30 to 37. Eight of the 10 participants were women.
After the procedure, a small bandage was applied and participants were able to go home the same day – opening up discussion about whether this novel new procedure to freeze nerves could help many people start to lose weight in a more effective manner.
Over the course of seven, 45 and 90 days, the researchers had the participants take measurements. The success rate was 100 percent, and there were no procedure-related complications.
On average, each person lost around 3.6 percent of weight. All of the BMI numbers also came down around 13.9 percent.
“I had struggled with weight since my 6-year-old was born … and I’m constantly rebounding [with various weight-loss programs],” Prologo’s first patient, Melissa, said in the news release video
“I’m literally never hungry … I’m not eating because I’m bored. It’s gradually coming off, so now I know it’s not going to come right back on like all the previous diets that I’ve tried,” Melissa said after the procedure.
The results of the study were presented at the Society for Interventional Radiology Conference this week in Los Angeles, but has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
While more study is needed to understand whether this is truly a long-term solution to lose weight, the results of doctors working to freeze the nerve seem incredibly promising at this point in time.