Physician Recommendation Leads to Patient Weight Loss
07 Jul 2015

Physician Recommendation Leads to Patient Weight Loss

Patients who have received recommendations from their doctors to lose weight are more likely to take those suggestions seriously and lose the weight. New research from the University of Georgia, published in the journal Economics and Human Biology, indicates that patients whose physicians have recommended weight loss succeed more often than patients whose physicians have not advised weight loss.

The study used a national data set from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and author Joshua Berning found that physician advice was associated with a reported 10-pound loss for women and a 12-pound loss for men over a one-year period. The study didn’t show that getting weight loss counsel from your doctor would definitively lead to weight loss, but advice from a physician was linked to greater odds of weight loss.

In 2010, more than 78 million U.S. adults and roughly 12.5 million children and adolescents were obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the rate is rising. According to a recent analysis by Gallup Healthways, the adult obesity rate in 2013 was 27.2%, up from 26.2% in 2012, and it is on pace to surpass all annual average obesity rates since Gallup-Healthways began tracking it in 2008.

“People often gain weight as they age,” Berning said. “The recommendation of weight loss mitigated weight gain more than it facilitated weight loss.” Physicians are able to put a person’s health into context by looking at factors beyond just weight or body mass index. Health care providers can assess multiple components, such as diet, exercise and medical history, to determine if a patient is at risk for obesity.

A similar study from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine examined the strategies doctors use to talk to patients about their weight loss. The study indicated that while physicians see an estimated 25% of the US population every month, and overweight patients represent approximately 60% of this patient population, patients who report receiving physician counseling about weight loss are up to two times more likely to report that they are currently trying to lose weight.

The impact direct communication can have on obesity is powerful and the solution sounds easy enough. The problem Berning found is that many “physicians often don’t take the time to consult patients about being overweight. They need to take the opportunity to interact with their patients. Through an open dialogue, patients can find solutions to their health issues, especially in terms of obesity.”

Commercial weight-loss programs are for profit, and they can be prohibitively expensive. Health care provider advice is more affordable and achievable for a wider population. Doctors can identify obesity problems earlier on and build long-term relationships with their patients.

Sometimes the best advice is advice that is hard to hear. The weight loss discussion can be uncomfortable for both the physician and the patient. As a result, this necessary conversation is often avoided during a doctor’s appointment. However, this study shows that, while awkward, the recommendation can lead to promising results.

Learn more about the study here:



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