- Brian Bender, PhD
Electrotherapy for Weight Loss & Obesity-Related Diseases
This post introduces some promising related to using electrotherapy for weight loss and obesity-related diseases like diabetes. Note: this is an emerging therapeutic technique with promising, yet incomplete, research results. This post is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any health-related changes to diet and disease management.
Bariatric surgery works.
But it’s not the only medical weight loss procedure.
First and foremost, the best approach to weight loss for the vast majority of individuals is a method that’s tried and true.
It is known to work, time and time again.
And it doesn’t require surgery and the risks that surgery entails.
Switching to a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and physical activity is a guaranteed strategy for success.
See our guide to understanding the details of a healthy diet.
But for the sake of technological and clinical progress, it is good to continue pursuing promising research into all potential therapeutic options to bring health to the widest set of people possible.
Electrotherapy for Weight Loss
It sounds like science-fiction.
The doctor implants electrodes that, when used to emit electromagnetic stimulation, helps you lose weight.
Well, there is research to suggest just that.
A 2014 systematic review looked at 31 studies and concluded that gastric electrical stimulation “holds great promises to be an effective obesity treatment.”
The review found that participants in most of the studies showed weight loss using this treatment process. And although few studies performed a follow-up assessment after 1 year, the few that did showed that significant weight loss was maintained.
It appears this technique works because the gastrointestinal (GI) tract has neural activity that can be modulated by electrotherapy like the brain.
In fact, gastric electrotherapy has been used to treat GI dysmotility syndromes including gastroparesis – when misfiring of GI muscle nerve signals causes erratic muscle contraction and can lead to numerous symptoms like nausea, vomiting, constipation, and pain.
This mechanism is thought to drive its ability to treat obesity.
By modulating and delaying gastric emptying (much like adding fiber to the diet does naturally), gastric electrotherapy can be used to treat obesity.
Some studies have shown that using electrotherapy for weight can result in a reduction of 30-40% of excess body fat.
Electrotherapy for Diabetes
Electrotherapy has also been investigated for use in treating diabetes.
The DIAMOND® multi-electrode gastric electrical stimulation device was approved to treat diabetes. In a 48 week, blinded, cross-over study which compared the effects of the implanted device turned on to the implanted device turned off (to account for the placebo effect derived from the surgical procedure itself), HbA1c levels showed a non-significant change with the device turned off and significant decrease with the device turned on.
In addition to improvement to diabetes, this electrotherapy device resulted in weight loss and improved blood pressure.
Other fascinating new electrotherapy strategies for treating diabetes involved deep brain stimulation.
Instead of electrodes present in the GI tract, electrodes implanted in the brain appear to offer promise towards treating diabetes.
Here, electrotherapy appears to modulate the brains rate of dopamine production, a molecule known to interact with insulin and therefore potentially help regulate the symptoms of diabetes.
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is a non-surgical procedure being investigated for a variety of health and wellness goals.
This non-surgical procedure uses electromagnetic fields applied to the body without requiring invasive surgical implantation.
This line of therapy is primarily used in the areas of bone and tissue healing, but it is also being heavily investigated for pain management.
For diabetic individuals, PEMF may offer hope for those suffering with neuropathy.
Beyond the treatment of diabetes and pain management, electromagnetism may even provide the ability to perform non-invasive blood glucose monitoring.
The pain of taking a blood sample is one of the primary reasons for skipping glucose testing. Non-invasive blood glucose testing using electromagnetism may significantly improve the quality of life for those with diabetes.
Electrotherapy PLUS Lifestyle Management
Many of the studies using electrotherapy for weight loss and diabetes management intentionally require study participants to maintain their current lifestyles to better understand the efficacy of each device.
However, the combination of electrotherapy for weight loss plus dietary changes and more physical activity will surely compound your efforts.
Furthermore, lifestyle management can easily persist for a lifetime with zero complications.
A permanent switch to a healthy diet and an active lifestyle will help you lose weight, keep the weight off, and reduce your risk of several chronic diseases.
Tracking your nutrition is a low-risk method for helping you identify your dietary patterns and switch to a healthier lifestyle!
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