In a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, a team of researchers led by King’s College London found that the chance of an obese person achieving a normal body weight without the use of bariatric surgery is 1 in 124 for women and 1 in 210 for men. In the case of severe obesity, this rate increases to 1 in 677 for women and 1 in 1,290 for men. The study outcomes indicate that the probability of attaining normal weight or maintaining weight loss is low when utilizing other non-surgical approaches to medically supervised weight loss. According to the researchers, obesity treatment frameworks grounded in community-based weight management programs may be ineffective.
In the study, the team of researchers tracked the weight of a total of 278,982 participants (149,788 women and 129,194 men) using electronic health records for a period of nine years from 2004 to 2014.
The study examined the chance of an obese person attaining normal body weight or a 5% reduction in body weight. However, patients who underwent bariatric surgery were excluded from the study, meaning that none of the study subjects had utilized it as a means of weight loss. A minimum of three body mass index (BMI) records per patient was used to estimate changes in weight.
Results revealed that during a maximum of 9 years’ follow-up, 1,283 men and 2,245 women reached normal body weight.
In simple obesity (body mass index = 30.0–34.9 kg/m2 ), the annual probability of attaining normal weight was 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women, increasing to 1 in 1,290 for men and 1 in 677 for women with morbid obesity (body mass index = 40.0–44.9 kg/m2 ).
Results also showed that the annual probability of achieving a reduction of 5% of weight was 1 in 7 for women and 1 in 8 for men with morbid obesity.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that obesity treatment programs should prioritize prevention of further weight gain along with the maintenance of weight loss in those who achieve it.
Dr. Alison Fildes, first author from the Division of Health and Social Care Research at King’s College London said in a recent news release: “Losing 5 to 10 per cent of your body weight has been shown to have meaningful health benefits and is often recommended as a weight loss target. These findings highlight how difficult it is for people with obesity to achieve and maintain even small amounts of weight loss. The main treatment options offered to obese patients in the UK are weight management programs accessed via their GP. This evidence suggests the current system is not working for the vast majority of obese patients.”
Fildes went on to explain that, “Once an adult becomes obese, it is very unlikely that they will return to a healthy body weight. New approaches are urgently needed to deal with this issue. Obesity treatments should focus on preventing overweight and obese patients gaining further weight, while also helping those that do lose weight to keep it off. More importantly, priority needs to be placed on preventing weight gain in the first place.”
While the study excluded obese patients who had undergone bariatric surgery, the results of this study do not directly affirm its efficacy in helping patients lose weight and maintain a healthy BMI. However, separate, independent studies have tested and verified the efficacy of bariatric surgery, revealing its effectiveness in significantly lowering long-term BMI and contributing the improved quality of life.