Proven Weight Loss Programs Scarce, Most Don't Meet Guidelines: Study

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Feb 12, 2016 04:30 AM EST

Majority of weight loss programs don't follow medical guidelines and its reliability is also most likely not effective at losing weight, according to a new study published in the Obesity journal.

As millions of people desiring to shed the pounds search for weight loss programs to help them achieve their goals, researchers from the Johns Hopkins University suggested that, 91 percent of the time, these lack proper guidelines on weight management. After evaluating over 200 weight loss programs in different clinics in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, the researchers found out that only 9 percent successfully passed the standards imposed by health agencies like The Obesity Society, American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

"The nutrition and weight loss industry is like the Wild West," said head researcher and weight loss specialist Kimberly Gudzune in the press release. "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."

Some of the programs the researchers evaluated included Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and those with commercial affiliations around America. They also looked into bariatric surgery and other independent weight loss programs, including websites that promote it.

Researchers noted that at least 59 percent of these programs indicted the specifics on their website. However, only 17 percent made it clear that their programs should be undertaken as a long session that transpires over six months.

Although majority of these programs also indicted the dietary changes that must be done by is participants, a few only provided the specifics. Hence, many of them are unguided about this aspect. Additionally, some 57 percent indicated that their programs consist of physical activities but under three percent actually meet the recommended target of 150 minutes of weekly physical activities.

Worse, about 15 percent of these programs recommend using weight loss medications and, while these are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, researchers noted that supplements still do not have substantial proof of effectiveness against losing weight. Some weight loss drugs have also been known to cause heart damage, Medical Daily reported.

Then, there's the financial aspect to consider. "Most programs can cost anywhere between $40 to $600 per month and are not often covered by insurance," Gudzane said. "And for many consumers, they could lose more weight from their wallets than their waists."

The researchers emphasized that, while their study only covered in-person programs in a few locations, the data suggested that reliable programs in other areas are also scarce. "We also need to look more closely at program cost and insurance coverage in future studies, as this information will be helpful for patients and referring doctors."

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