- New research shows that while most adults with obesity have tried to lose weight, often through diets or exercise regimens, many have been unable to successfully lose weight.
- Popular diet and exercise programs are difficult to maintain in the long-term, so while some may lose weight in the short-term, many often gain it back quickly.
- Health experts say these new findings highlight the need to develop more solutions to help people with obesity achieve their weight loss goals.
New research from the United Kingdom has found that while most adults with obesity have tried to lose weight, often through diets or exercise regimens, many have been unable to successfully lose the weight and keep it off.
The findings, which are being presented at the European Congress on Obesity between May 4-7, show that exercise programs and calorie-controlled diets are least effective at helping people lose weight compared to pharmaceutical treatments and bariatric surgery.
The researchers say the findings highlight the need for increased support and better solutions when it comes to weight management.
Dr. Dan Azagury, the section chief of minimally invasive and bariatric surgery at Stanford University, says these findings reflect what providers see every day.
“When you are trying to lose weight, the odds are stacked against you. It is so much more challenging than people — who do not struggle with extra weight or do not treat these patients — assume,” Azagury told Healthline.
The researchers surveyed 1,850 individuals with obesity from six European countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
The participants were asked questions about their comorbidities, demographics, treatment use, healthcare use, weight and weight loss efforts over the past year.
Seventy-nine percent of the respondents said they had attempted to lose weight, either by calorie-controlled or restrictive diets (72 percent), exercise plans (22 percent) or pharmaceutical treatments (12 percent).
But three-quarters said they did not lose a meaningful amount of weight, which was defined as losing at least 5 percent of their body weight. A third of the respondents said they gained weight, which was defined as gaining at least 5 percent of their body weight.
According to the report, exercise plans and calorie-controlled diets were least effective — about 20 percent of the respondents were able to lose weight through this method.
Though weight loss surgery is traditionally known to be the most effective weight loss strategy, few of the participants had undergone bariatric surgery.
“The findings are very important and support the need for better, more comprehensive strategies for managing patients with obesity,” Dr. Jorge Moreno, a Yale Medicine internist who is board certified in obesity medicine and assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, told Healthline.
The report also underscored just how common it is for obesity to coincide with other health complications, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis.
As obesity progresses, these complications tend to worsen as well.
“Obesity negatively affects every organ system in the body, therefore, many health issues are directly affected by obesity,” says Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA.
Metabolic syndrome can contribute to heart disease, reproductive health issues and cancer, according to Azagury.
For example, high inflammatory markers in adipose (fatty) tissue can contribute to impaired insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes, according to Moreno.
“Increased adiposity also results in increase lipid production which can result in coronary artery disease or fatty liver disease,” Moreno said.
Many popular diet and exercise plans are not sustainable.
“The patient will typically lose weight with most methods; however, as soon as the diet or exercise regimen is stopped, the weight comes right back,” says Ali.
The most effective weight loss strategies involve long-term diet and behavioral changes, Ali said, adding that each patient and their practitioner must develop a custom plan that the patient will be able to maintain in the long run.
Moreno says that patients need to be informed that obesity is a chronic health condition and that treating it takes time and various methods, such as counseling, medication or surgery referral.
Doctors hope the study will continue to raise awareness on obesity along with the most effective ways to treat it.
“A multidisciplinary approach to tailor the best tools to each patient is needed, we now have multiple safe and effective drugs and procedures to help our patients be successful,” Azagury said.
New research shows that while most adults with obesity have tried to lose weight, often through diets or exercise regimens, many have been unable to successfully lose weight.
Popular diet and exercise programs are difficult to maintain in the long-term, so while some may lose weight in the short-term, many often gain it back quickly.
The researchers say the findings highlight the need to develop more solutions to help people with obesity achieve their weight loss goals.