Rising population of obese individuals and increased risks related to obesity has lead to advent of variety of treatment options.
A clinical trial (read here) was conducted to assess whether weight loss outcome was higher in commercial weight loss programs or in primary care settings.
What happened in the study?
722 overweight and obese adults were recruited in the study from Australia, Germany and UK.
They were randomly split into two groups where one received 12 months of standard care and the other received 12 months of free membership to a commercial weight loss program.
The commercial program involved prescription of healthy, low calorie diet, increased physical activity and group support.
Individuals were called for weekly meetings for counselling, group discussion and weight measurement.
They also had access to internet based systems to monitor weight and food habits, to participate in forums and obtain information.
In the standard care group, individuals received guidance and treatment for weight loss from their general practitioner.
The professionals involved in this group were asked to follow national treatment guidelines observed in UK, Australia and Germany.
What was the outcome?
Individuals belonging to the commercial program group lost twice the weight lost by the standard care group.
Participants in the commercial program had the odds of losing 5 to 10% more weight than the standard care group. Large reductions in waist circumference and fat mass were observed in commercial program group.
Modest improvements in cholesterol, insulin, blood pressure and glucose levels were observed over 12 months.
Although weight loss in standard care group was lesser than other group, 25% of the individuals in this group lost 5% or more of initial bodyweight.
How did this occur?
The commercial program incorporated a variety of techniques to aid in weight loss such as: self monitoring, goal setting, advice on diet, motivation, guidelines about exercise and prevention of relapse.
Commercial programs are directed to a larger group and hence are less expensive. In this case the membership was free, which could be another psychological factor playing an important role in better outcome.
The factor of peer support involved in commercial program can be beneficial to some individuals.
Since higher weight loss was observed in commercial program participants from all three countries, it can be generalized that there is trend for preferring commercial programs over standard care.
However we cannot ignore the weight loss observed in the standard care group.
Focus and attention available at an individual level, frequent contact and monitoring of weight, treatment in accordance with clinical guidelines and reduced group interaction could be few of the factors responsible for the outcome in this group.
What does this mean?
According to the study, individuals referred to a commercial weight loss program lose more weight than those who receive personalized standard care.
Results of the study suggest that group activity for weight loss is effective in terms of losing weight and expenses involved. However, this is subject to one’s nature and preferences. Eat healthy. Exercise wisely.