A survey of overweight adults from six countries in western Europe found that most strategies didn’t work.
The analysis was lead by diabetologist Dr Marc Evans from Cardiff said, ” It is important that we tackle Europe’s growing obesity problem to reduce hospitalisation from the multiple illnesses that result. Our survey results show that most adults with obesity are actively trying to address this, but most are unsuccessful whatever strategy they choose”.
The study looked at 1,850 adults from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. All had BMIs of 30 or more. A quarter of the participants reported no ill effects from being overweight and the others commonly reported high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities and type two diabetes. 78.6% of them had tried to lose weight the previous year.
The most common methods used were: Calorie controlled or restricted diet 71.9%, an exercise programme 21.9%, drug treatment 12.3%, joining a gym 12%, using a digital health app 9.7%, alternative treatments 8.1%, weight loss service 7%, and cognitive behavioural therapy 2.1%.
The results were that 78% of those who attempted to lose weight did not lose 5% or more of their initial weight and some weighed more than this afterwards.
For those who tried calorie controlled or restricted diets 26.5% of people did lose weight but 17.1% of them gained weight.
For those who undertook an exercise programme 33.3% lost weight but 15.5% gained weight.
The gym goers lost weight 27% of the time but 32.4% gained. (We don’t know if this was muscle gain or fat gain though)
It seems that apart from baratric surgery few interventions achieve long term weight loss but an article in iScience published in 2021 found that health effects of obesity were considerably reduced or eliminated by having moderate or high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. It argued that it might be better to emphasise the benefits of physical activity than stress weight loss as being the most important goal.
Meanwhile results from 80 thousand participants in the UK Biobank cohort show that more time spent in moderate to vigorous activity is associated with lower mortality. It doesn’t matter if you do these higher levels of activity in one go or in multiple bouts.