10 April 2012

Exercise and Eating Less Fat More Likely To Result In Weight Loss Than Popular Diets

Obesity is a condition where a person has too much body fat. This is not to be confused with being overweight. Being overweight, which is also unhealthy for anyone, does not necessarily mean that the person has too much fat. An overweight person may be so because of extra muscles, heavier bones, or extra water in his system.

Obesity occurs when the body takes in more calories than it burns. The unused calories is stored as fat.

Obesity is not a psychological problem as many think. People do not consciously choose to be obese. Changes in the environment where food is readily available and physical activities are diminished contribute to the prevalence of obesity.

Some factors that can contribute to obesity are:
  • Historical eating and dietary behavior since childhood
  • Easy accessibility to food combined with minimal physical activity
  • Unhealthy or unplanned diet
  • Less physical jobs at work
  • Lack of time to exercise

There are eating disorders that when coupled with an unhealthy diet can also lead to obesity.

Strategies identified for successful weight loss among Americans who are obese

Contrary to popular perception, a large proportion of obese Americans can and do lose weight, say researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. What's more, they say, the old tried and true methods of eating less fat and exercising are some of the most effective paths to weight loss success.

The research results appear in the April 10 online issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"This is great news because studies have shown that even a 5 percent reduction in weight can lead to improved health," says lead author Jacinda M. Nicklas, MD, MPH, MA, a clinical research fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. "With more than a third of Americans now obese and fifty to seventy percent of them trying to lose weight, this is important because the health risks associated with carrying that extra weight are substantial."

Video: CDC Health Matters - The Obesity Epidemic

Nicklas and colleagues analyzed data from more than 4,000 obese individuals culled from the 2001-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the health and nutritional status of adults in the United States.

Individuals included in the study were over 20 years of age with a body mass index of 30 or more 12 months prior to the interview.

Of those surveyed, 2,523 individuals reported trying to lose weight. Forty percent of these said they experienced weight loss of 5 percent or greater, and another 20 percent lost 10 percent or more.

"Those who exercised more and ate less fat were significantly more likely to lose weight," say the authors. "Additionally we found a correlation between joining weight loss programs and greater reported weight loss, which may speak to the importance of structure in a weight loss regimen" says Nicklas. And while those who used prescription weight loss medications also reported weight loss success, this represented only a small number of study participants.

In contrast, the authors found that, "self-reported use of popular diets, liquid diets, nonprescription weight loss pills and diet foods/products were not associated with weight loss."

"It's very encouraging to find that the most of the weight loss methods associated with success are accessible and inexpensive," says senior author Christina Wee, MD, MPH who conducts research on obesity and health disparities as the Co-Director of Research in BIDMC's Division of General Medicine and Primary Care. "There are lots of fad diets out there as well as expensive over-the-counter medications that have not necessarily been proven to be effective, and it is important that Americans discuss product claims with their doctor before trying such products."

This study did not look at the long-term impact of these interventions on an individual's ability to keep the weight off. The authors suggest that future research is needed to identify and address barriers to maintaining weight loss.


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Harvard Medical School
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
Scientists Present Proof Green Coffee Beans Help in Fast Effective Weight Loss
The Supermarket May Influence One's Own Weight
Anti-Diabetic Medicine Beneficial in Prevention of Long Term Maternal Obesity
Obese Dogs Find Better Quality of Life After Weight Loss