A person wearing headphones while running.Share on Pinterest
New research finds that three types of obesity treatments are the most effective for helping people lose weight and reduce related health risks. Westend61/Getty Images
  • A new literature review has found that obesity is a growing problem around the world.
  • This is a cause for concern because obesity contributes to illness and premature death.
  • However, weight loss can reduce a person’s risk for health problems.
  • Effective treatments for obesity include behavioral change, medications, and surgery.
  • A combination of these approaches tailored to the individual works best.

According to a recent review published in JAMA, obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, is associated with a greater risk for illness and early death.

However, weight loss can improve several associated risk factors, including elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, and abnormal lipid values.

The review — which sought to summarize current knowledge about the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of obesity — found that interventions like diet and exercise, medications, and bariatric surgery can all effectively assist with weight loss.

The authors additionally concluded that treatment for obesity should include an appropriate combination of these approaches tailored to the individual.

In order to make their recommendations, the authors reviewed numerous high-quality studies and policy guidelines. Altogether, they selected 126 articles for inclusion in their review.

Dr. Blen Tesfu, a general practitioner and medical advisor for the UK-based healthcare platform Welzo, commented after examining the report that the findings of the study were “quite comprehensive.”

She additionally pointed out that one important finding of the study is just how prevalent obesity is around the world and in the U.S. in particular.

On the epidemiological front, the study authors found that worldwide obesity between the years 1975 and 2014 rose from 3.2% to 10.8% in men and 6.4% to 14.9% in women.

Additionally, it was forecasted that by 2025 18% of men and 21% of women will be living with obesity.

The outlook was even worse when U.S. statistics were examined. According to Tesfu, 42% of American adults are currently affected by obesity generating an estimated annual cost of $173 billion.

It is expected that by the year 2030, 48.9% of Americans will be classified as obese, per the report.

The authors also noted a growing racial divide in obesity with Black and Hispanic individuals outpacing their white counterparts.

When it comes to health risks, the review found strong links between obesity and an increased risk of certain health problems.

According to Tesfu, obesity “significantly impacts metabolic health,” leading to conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

It can also contribute to sleep disorders and osteoarthritis due to mechanical and structural changes in the body, she explained.

Finally, Tesfu noted the psychological impact of obesity.

“Associations with mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, are often exacerbated by societal stigma,” she stated.

Dr. Praveen Guntipalli, Medical Director and Owner of Sanjiva Medical Spa in Dallas, Texas, said, “It is worth noting that even a modest weight loss — ranging from 5% to 10% — can lead to significant improvements in these risk factors.”

Guntipalli added that research has shown that even small amounts of weight loss can improve blood sugar and triglycerides significantly.

“More profound weight loss leads to even greater improvements,” he said, “particularly in managing conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia.”

Guntapalli further noted that weight loss is beneficial no matter your level of obesity and can create positive change in the various health markers irrespective of a person’s initial BMI.

“Treating obesity effectively can reduce the risk of developing these comorbidities and improve overall health,” he explained.

For example, dropping 10% to 15% of body weight can yield improvements in conditions like sleep apnea and non-alcoholic fatty liver.

“Additionally,” said Guntapalli, “weight management can enhance quality of life, alleviate symptoms of depression, and improve mobility, sexual dysfunction, and urinary stress incontinence.”

Tesfu said there were three general types of weight loss interventions that work best, according to the study: behavioral and lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical options.

Behavioral and lifestyle changes include “significant focus on dietary changes, increased physical activity, and behavioral therapy,” she explained. These can help you achieve 5% to 10% weight loss, per the review.

At the top of the list of effective medications that can aid with weight loss are the increasingly popular GLP-1 agonists such as:

The study found that these types of medications can lead to 8% to 21% weight loss.

Additionally, surgery can be an effective intervention. “Bariatric surgeries, such as laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, are recommended for certain individuals based on BMI and comorbidities,” said Tesfu. This obesity treatment can lead to 25% to 30% weight loss.

However, an approach that treats obesity from multiple angles may be best, according to the study.

“Effective treatment involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medical interventions, and possibly surgical procedures,” Tesfu explained.

She additionally noted that permanent lifestyle changes and possible long-term medication use may be necessary to maintain weight loss and reduce people’s risk for obesity-related health issues.

Obesity is a growing health issue throughout the world, especially in the United States.

It can contribute to many health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and osteoarthritis. It can also lead to premature death.

However, weight loss can mitigate the risk. Even a small amount of weight loss can better a person’s overall health.

The most effective treatments for obesity are diet and exercise, GLP-1 medications, and weight loss surgery.

Experts suggest it is best to use a combined approach based on an individual person’s needs.