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Once Obese, Always Obese: New Study Says Those Are the Odds

The odds against those with obesity aren’t good — not just in terms of health, but also in losing that weight gained.

An entire industry has thrived off the obesity epidemic, promising those afflicted results within X amount of days. However, a recent study indicates that the more weight gained, the less chance a person has of getting back to normal. The finding has serious implications for how we, as a population, should be approaching the obesity epidemic.

The odds aren’t good. Researchers report an obese woman has a one in 124 chance of getting back to her normal weight and an obese man has a one in 210 chance. If a man or woman is of severe obesity, these odds get even more dismal, increasing to one in 1,290 for men and one in 677 for women. A group of researchers tracked the weight of 278,982 participants using records from 2004 to 2014. The researchers wanted to see if obese patients could attain a 5 percent reduction in weight or even return to a normal weight, and without the help of bariatric surgery.

The annual reports looked good: women had a one in 10 chance of reducing their body weight by 5 percent while men had a one in 12 chance. However, over half of those who lost this weight would regain it in two years and 73 percent would regain the weight in five years. The researchers noted a lot of this “weight cycling” — losing and then gaining it all back among many of these patients.

Lead author Alison Fildes, from the Division of Health and Social Care Research at King’s College London, said in a press release:

“This evidence suggests the current system is not working for the vast majority of obese patients.”

The obvious answer is to help prevent people from becoming obese in the first place. But when there are so many contributors to this disease from food deserts to lack of information and education, it’s hard to even try.

Professor and senior author Martin Gulliford, from the Division of Health and Social Care Research at King’s College London, explained that new strategies need to be considered:

“Current strategies to tackle obesity, which mainly focus on cutting calories and boosting physical activity, are failing to help the majority of obese patients to shed weight and maintain that weight loss. The greatest opportunity for stemming the current obesity epidemic is in wider-reaching public health policies to prevent obesity in the population.”

We must confront our national obesity crisis, warns NIH director Francis Collins, or face a decrease in life expectancy.

Read more at Science Daily or read the study at the American Journal of Public Health.

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Staff


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