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What Are the Odds of an Obese Person Losing Weight?

Fitness professionals who specialize in weight loss have their work cut out for them. According to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health (2015; doi:10.2105/ AJPH.2015.302773), the odds of an obese person achieving a “normal” weight are extremely low.

The U.K.-based study looked at electronic health records for 278,982 obese individuals aged 20 and older. Researchers analyzed differences in BMI between 2004 and 2014. To qualify for the study, people needed to have BMI measurements taken at least three separate times during the 10-year time period. The average age of participants was 55 for men and 49 for women. Bariatric surgery patients were excluded from the study.

What the researchers discovered was discouraging.

“The annual probability [of patients with simple obesity attaining] a normal body weight was 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women,” the authors reported.

The chances of attaining a normal weight were even lower for subjects with the highest BMIs (over 40). “In morbidly obese patients, the annual probability of achieving normal weight was 1 in 1,290 for men and 1 in 677 for women,” the authors stated.

“Our findings indicate that current non-surgical obesity treatment strategies are failing to achieve sustained weight loss for the majority of obese patients,” the authors said. “Obesity treatment programs should prioritize prevention of further weight gain along with the maintenance of weight loss in those who achieve it.”

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