Weighty Matters: What’s New?

When it comes to matters of weight management, it seems like there’s always a new diet popping up or special supplements to try that are guaranteed to help you drop those pounds, practically overnight! Hopefully, most of you are onto fad diets and marketing schemes that really are too good to be true. But along with all the hype and false promises, there are scientific advances and new findings that really do hold promise. This week’s posting will focus on three new players that have surfaced.

Maestro® Rechargeable System. If you have obesity and have a ravenous appetite, you might be interested to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new device called the Maestro® Rechargeable System. This device targets the nervous system; specifically, it works on the nerve path between the brain and the stomach. The wire leads of the system must be implanted above the stomach. Once implanted, the device releases electrical impulses that are sent to the vagus nerve, which, in turn, helps to better regulate appetite.


In a clinical trial involving 233 obese people, 157 received the Maestro® and 76 received a deactivated device. The “activated” device group lost 8.5% more body weight after 12 months compared with the control group. Nausea, vomiting, and a variety of other complications (some at the implantation site) were reported, but the FDA went ahead and gave its approval anyway.

The Maestro® is approved for people age 18 and older with a body-mass index (BMI) of 35 to 45 and at least one obesity-related condition (such as Type 2 diabetes) who have been unable to lose weight with a weight-loss program. Interested? Be aware that insurers have not yet agreed to cover the cost, which is estimated to be between $15,000 and $30,000. One will need deep pockets to pay for this!

Saxenda. The FDA has been on somewhat of a roll lately with its approval of several new weight-loss medications. Saxenda, made by Novo Nordisk, is the fourth drug to be approved since 2012. You might be familiar with its little sibling, Victoza, which is an injectable GLP-1 agonist that many people with Type 2 diabetes inject every day (albeit in a lower dose). One of the “side effects” of Victoza is weight loss; researchers ran with that and developed a higher-dose version specifically aimed at helping people lose weight.

In clinical trials, people who injected 3 milligrams of Saxenda every day lost at least 5% of their body weight, with 31% losing more than 10% of body weight. While any weight loss is beneficial, some health experts question how this drug will compare with some of the other newer weight-loss drugs, such as Belviq and Qsymia. Taking Saxenda means taking injections every day; side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood sugar, and even increased appetite. More serious side effects include pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, kidney problems, suicidal thoughts, and increased heart rate.

Saxenda is approved for adults with a BMI of at least 30, or a BMI of at least 27 with at least one weight-related condition. The cost? About $1,000 per month. And not all health insurers will pay for this.

Vitamin D. About 40% of adults living in North America are thought to be deficient in vitamin D. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain strong bones. It’s also thought to protect against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and cancer. Add another to the list: obesity.

According to Italian researchers, a vitamin D deficiency can contribute to obesity and obesity-related complications. In a study of 400 overweight and obese people with vitamin D deficiency, one group was given 100,000 IUs of vitamin D per month, another group, 25,000 IUs, and the third group, no vitamin D. All were put on a low-calorie diet. After six months, the people in both of the vitamin D groups lost more weight and lost more inches from their waistline compared to the group who took none.

These findings don’t mean that vitamin D necessarily causes weight loss, nor does it mean that you should start popping vitamin D like mad. However, the researchers do recommend that all obese and overweight people in North America get checked for vitamin D deficiency.

There’s still no magic pill for weight loss. But there are more and more options that are available. If you’re interested in any approach for weight loss, talk it over with your doctor to make sure it’s appropriate for you. And don’t forget to look into your health-insurance coverage!

Toenail fungus is more common among people with diabetes. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn about steps you can take to prevent and deal with this condition from Type 2 diabetes veteran Martha Zimmer.


    Other than the vitamin D, these medications seem to “work” by making you too sick to eat.