Weight loss industry dubbed as `Wild West`

Washington D.C, Feb 11 (ANI): When it comes to shedding those extra kilos, “will” is not the only factor that matters. A new study has found that it is hard for the people with medically serious weight problems to find or have access to proven, reliable programs.

Johns Hopkins University’s Kimberly Gudzune noted that the nutrition and weight loss industry is like the Wild West. There is very little oversight, and it’s hard for consumers and medical professionals alike to tell what is effective, reliable and meets guidelines’ standards.

Investigators report finding that consumers and primary care physicians who rely on Internet information may have a hard time identifying weight loss programs that align with widely accepted guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association (AHA), American College of Cardiology (ACC) and The Obesity Society (TOS).

The results, they say, underscore the need for some regulatory oversight of information provided by community-based weight loss programs that claim to be successful.

For the study, investigators evaluated close to 200 programs within 10-mile radiuses of 17 different primary care clinics within a large practice network in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. When reviewing their websites, they found that only 9 percent of programs actually adhered in some way to expert medical guidelines for weight loss issued by the AHA, ACC and TOS.

While 59 percent of programs described online the specifics of their “intensity,” only 17 percent overall could qualify as a high-intensity program, a program that advises more than 14 sessions in six months.

75 percent of the programs described dietary change as a part of their weight loss regimen, but the type of dietary change was often not specified, leaving consumers unclear about this important aspect that could affect their continued participation and success in the program. 57 percent of the programs described increased physical activity as a part of their weight loss program, but only 3 percent included the recommended goal of 150 minutes or more of moderate physical activity per week.

15 percent of programs reported prescribing Food and Drug Administration-approved medications, yet 34 percent endorsed the use of supplements. Gudzune emphasizes that most vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements lack any scientific proof that they help with weight loss, and some that do may cause significant side effects, such as cardiovascular damage.

Gudzune and her colleagues evaluated the claims of the programs on their websites using five criteria: Inclusion of high-intensity interventions greater than or equal to 14 sessions in six months; Inclusion of a moderate, calorie-lowering diet that is evidence-based, e.g., the higher-protein Zone diet, the Mediterranean-style diet and the lacto-ovo vegetarian-style diet; Encouragement of increased physical activity; Inclusion of regular self-monitoring tools to track weight, meal planning, food tracking and exercise; And exclusion of dispensing or recommending supplements.

The study appears in the journal Obesity. (ANI)

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