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U.K. study: Most obese people unlikely to lose weight and keep it off

A study published this week in the American Journal of Public Health shows that obese people are statistically unlikely to lose weight and keep it off.

“The probability of attaining normal weight or maintaining weight loss is low,” the authors wrote. “Obesity treatment frameworks grounded in community-based weight management programs may be ineffective.”

Researchers looked at electronic health records of a total of 278,982 people living in the U.K. over a nine-year period. “Current strategies to tackle obesity, which mainly focus on cutting calories and boosting physical activity, are failing to help the majority of obese patients to shed weight and maintain that weight loss.”

The findings reveal that obese people, those with a body mass index between 30 and 35, have low chances of attaining even a five percent weight loss in a given year, with just one in 10 women and one in 12 men making such a reduction.

The most obese subjects in the study were much more likely to reduce their weight by 5 percent in a year, however. Of participants termed superobese — those with BMI greater than 45 — women had a one-in-six chance, while men had a one-in-five chance.

Of those who were able to lose five percent of their weight, at least 50 percent regained the weight within two year’s time, the study shows.

In a statement, Professor Martin Gulliford, a study author from King’s College London said, “current strategies to tackle obesity, which mainly focus on cutting calories and boosting physical activity, are failing to help the majority of obese patients to shed weight and maintain that weight loss.”

In the study, authors say that interventions focusing on caloric restrictions and increased physical activity are unlikely to help with cutting a lot of weight, with research showing there has been limited progress in fighting the global obesity epidemic.
In the statement, Gulliford said, “The greatest opportunity for stemming the current obesity epidemic is in wider-reaching public health policies to prevent obesity in the population.”

In the United States, 75 percent of men and 67 percent of women ages 25 and older are overweight or obese, according to a report published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Addressing America’s obesity epidemic has become a national priority with the launch of efforts like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program aimed at children, state-funded interventions that send nutritionists door-to-door to educate people about proper eating habits and the Food and Drug Administration’s recent move to ban transfats in food.

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