Slim Chances

A new study published yesterday in the American Journal of Public Health finds slim chances for people with obesity returning to a normal weight without any particular treatment. This is something that people who understand obesity know quite well: the probability of obesity just going away is stunningly small. But it gives people — even the researchers who did the study — a blank piece of paper where they can draw their own conclusions.

The authors say that this means:

Current strategies that focus on cutting calories and boosting physical activity aren’t working for most patients to achieve weight loss and maintain that.

The greatest opportunity for fighting the obesity epidemic might be in public health policies to prevent it in the first place at a population level.

Apart from excluding the most effective treatment available — bariatric surgery — the authors did not actually study those current strategies. People who had received bariatric surgery were excluded from this analysis.

Speaking for the Obesity Society, Caroline Apovian pointed out that the study was based on medical records of weight, without reference to any treatment or efforts directed at weight management. “So this has no relevance to how effective weight-loss programs are,” she said.

Observations about clinical effectiveness are best found in clinical effectiveness studies, not observations of the natural history of a disease. Duh!

Click here to read the study, here to read more from the BBC, and here to read more from HealthDay.

Unlikely, photograph © m.s.h / flickr

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July 17, 2015