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Majority of Americans Fail to Maintain Weight Loss

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Findings from Penn State College of Medicine researchers show that only one in six obese or overweight Americans are able to maintain weight loss. The scientists say the findings are important. Targeting individuals who are successful at keeping weight off could help others.

The researchers say the only way to reduce the number of obese American is by making weight loss programs available to more people and more effective. They note that obesity rates in America doubled between 1980 and 2004.

Jennifer Kraschnewski, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences says, "It is important for health professionals to understand the true prevalence of long-term weight loss, as it may help to change the underlying beliefs and influence clinical practice. Studies have shown that physicians may not believe offering weight loss advice and counseling is a worthwhile activity in clinical practice. An awareness of our findings may encourage health professionals to pursue weight loss counseling for overweight patients."

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The study sample included an analysis of 14,306 people from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, from 1999 to 2006. The findings showed that after a year, thirty six percent of individuals maintained five percent weight loss.

Other findings revealed that women were more likely than men to keep off ten percent of weight. Sixteen percent of diabetics, compared to non diabetics were able to maintain weight loss. Partnered or married individuals had a lower prevalence of long-term weight loss success.

If researchers could identify those who have success with maintaining weight loss, Kraschnewski says the impact on public health would be significant, even though reducing five percent of body weight seems modest. “Particularly, those individuals who have lost at least five percent and kept it off -- one in three Americans who have ever been overweight -- may represent a unique opportunity to reach a target population who has had some success but could benefit from greater weight loss efforts."

Sixty nine percent of those studied said weight loss of at least 10 pounds the previous year was intentional. Long-term weight loss was most successful among younger people, females, non-Hispanic whites and those with higher education and better overall health. The findings show Americans can lose weight – the problem is finding ways to keep it off.

Penn State