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It's tough to lose weight, survey confirms

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A survey of adults with obesity from six Western European countries shows how hard it is for obese people to lose weight.

The survey found that more than three-quarters of adults tried to lose weight in the past year, but most failed to achieve clinically meaningful weight loss.

"Our study illustrates that the vast majority of people struggling with high body weight do indeed embark upon a variety of approaches to facilitate weight reduction," Dr. Marc Evans of University Hospital, in Cardiff, UK, told Reuters Health by email.

"However, our study clearly illustrates that the majority of these approaches fail to deliver significant weight reduction, even with the use of current medical therapies designed to aid weight loss," Dr. Evans said.

"Our study thus illustrates an area of significant unmet need with respect to medicinal therapeutic approaches to aid weight loss," he added.

The study was presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO), sponsored by the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

The findings are based on 1,850 adults (mean age, 53 years; 52% women) with obesity who responded to a survey. More than half (57%) had received a diagnosis or treatment for overweight or obesity; 15% had been given a prescription medication for weight management or weight loss.

Across all obesity classes, 79% of adults said they attempted to lose weight in the past year, with similar proportions for obesity class I (77%), class II (80%) and class III (80%).

Most adults tried to lose weight using only one strategy, most commonly calorie-controlled or restricted diets (72%), exercise programs or courses (22%), and pharmaceutical treatments (12%).

Among the 1,454 adults who tried to lose weight, weight change data were available for 1,383 (95%). Overall, 73% of this group were unsuccessful in achieving clinically meaningful weight loss of at least 5% of their body weight over the past year.

The degree of success varied between weight-loss strategies, with about 30% reporting clinically meaningful weight loss from using a weight-loss service or taking a pharmaceutical treatment.

Adults who reported using two or more different weight-loss strategies were more likely to achieve clinically meaningful weight loss than peers who only used one strategy (33% vs. 22%).

In contrast, 50% of adults who had weight-loss surgery had meaningful weight loss, but only 22 adults opted for surgery.

Other data from the survey show that adults with obesity often have one or more obesity-related complications, which tend to increase as obesity progresses, and which are associated with greater use of healthcare resources.

"While obesity's impact on health is well known, our finding that a sizeable proportion of adults with obesity appear at elevated risk of hospitalization or surgery due to multiple underlying illnesses, undoubtedly adds a sense of urgency to tackling Europe's growing obesity epidemic," Dr. Evans said in the statement.

Support for this research was provided by Novo Nordisk. Dr. Evans has received fees from the company.

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