UBCO research suggests weight-loss programs are worth the money

UBCO study targets obesity

New research from the University of British Columbia Okanagan indicates dieters benefit from the help of professionals.

"For people trying to improve their health and lose weight by themselves—privately tracking and journaling meals and exercise—it is time to call in the professionals," said Dr. Lesley Lutes', director of UBC’s Centre for Obesity and Well-Being Research Excellence.

Dr. Lutes’ latest research paper, published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, suggests people trying to make lifestyle changes are more successful when they use a commercial weight loss program as opposed to trying to do it on their own.

“Given the prevalence of obesity, accessible and effective treatment options are needed to manage obesity and its comorbid conditions including heart disease and pre-diabetes,” she says.

“Evidence-based commercial weight management programs are a potential solution to the lack of available treatment and considerably cheaper than a clinic-based approach.”

But, she notes, very few commercial programs have been tested, making it difficult for doctors to refer patients to for-profit programs due to a lack of evidence-based success rates.

“Essentially, obesity care needs to move beyond the simplistic approaches of "eat less, move more.”

Dr. Lutes was one of the lead investigators who conducted a year-long study in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom studying more than 370 participants randomly assigned into two groups—half to a commercial weight management program and the remaining to a do-it-yourself group.

The DIY participants were provided with common weight-loss approaches—including strategies, diet tracking, self-monitoring apps, meal plans and physical activity—then essentially left to their own devices.

At three and 12 months, participants in both groups were assessed. Those randomized to the commercial weight management program lost more than twice as much weight and reduced their waist circumference by a greater percentage compared to those in the DIY group.

“This information can help me advocate to the government about one of the many ways they can support patients in our province to improve health and wellbeing,” she says.

“Perhaps our leaders can think about subsidizing access to commercial weight-loss programs that are proven effective. It could be a major step in helping achieve desperately needed improved health outcomes.”

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