Most Weight Programs Flunk Five Simple Criteria

A new study in Obesity points out how difficult it can be to find an evidence-based weight management program. In a sample of 80 weight management programs in northern Virginia, eastern Maryland, and Washington, DC, Kimberly Gudzune and colleagues found that most of those programs flunk on five simple criteria used as hallmarks for evidence-based weight management programs:

  1. Intensity. Does the program have enough intensity to have an effect (14 or more sessions in six months)?
  2. Dietary Modification. Does the program follow evidence-based dietary strategies?
  3. Physical Activity. Is physical activity encouraged as part of the program?
  4. Behavioral Strategies. Are effective self-monitoring and planning activities incorporated?
  5. Unproven Supplements. Does the program sell herbal and dietary supplements with no therapeutic value?

The authors found a total of 191 programs within the defined area and randomly selected 80 of those programs for detailed interviews and evaluations. They found that only 19% of those programs actually followed guidelines for evidence-based weight management. Gudzune commented:

The nutrition and weight loss industry is like the Wild West. There is very little oversight, and it’s hard for consumers and medical professionals alike to tell what is effective, reliable and meets guidelines’ standards. Most programs can cost anywhere between $40 to $600 per month and are not often covered by insurance.

Consumer protection by the Federal Trade Commission, state Attorneys General, and professional licensing organizations fall a bit short. The authors say their findings point to a need for better consumer protection in weight loss and obesity care:

Our findings highlight the need for regulatory agencies to promote more complete and accurate disclosure of weight-loss program practices online. Until such disclosures are common, clinicians should consider calling weight-loss programs to verify what services are offered.

Click here for the study and here for more from HealthDay.

Searching, photograph © Rolf Brecher / flickr

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February 13, 2016

2 Responses to “Most Weight Programs Flunk Five Simple Criteria”

  1. February 13, 2016 at 7:25 am, Allen Browne said:

    As my wife, Nancy, told me this morning “Ted nailed that one.” Wild,wild West it is from many points of view. Also demonstrated by analysis of recent dietary guidelines. Oh Well!

    • February 13, 2016 at 7:32 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Allen, and thanks, Nancy. Stay warm up there.