Doctors often give ineffective weight loss advice to people with obesity

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Scientists from the University of Oxford and elsewhere found that doctors often give ineffective weight loss advice to people with obesity.

People who have overweight or obese, compared to those with healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions.

The health risks include higher risks of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, death, heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, mental illnesses, and body pain.

Guidelines recommend general practitioners (GPs) take every opportunity to talk to people living with obesity about their weight, and evidence shows even very brief advice is linked to weight loss.

However, little is known about what GPs say when giving brief behavioral advice, and if it reflects evidence-based recommendations for people living with obesity.

In the current study, researchers aimed to categorize the content and delivery of GPs’ advice during brief interventions.

They analyzed 159 audio recordings of consultations from the Brief Interventions for Weight Loss (BWeL) trial. GPs gave brief weight-loss advice to patients with obesity in 137 UK surgeries.

The results comprised 4 clusters, illuminating different aspects of the advice given:

(i) Content of diet and physical activity advice, showing this was highly varied; (ii) Content of “implementation tips” given to support changes, e.g. using smaller plates;

(iii) Content of signposting support, either towards further clinician support or other resources, e.g. information booklets; (iv) Style of advice delivery, showing GPs rarely gave personalized advice or reasons for their advice.

Based on the findings, the team concludes that weight-loss advice from GPs to patients with obesity rarely included effective methods, mostly communicating a general “eat less, do more” approach.

The advice was mostly generic, and rarely tailored to patients’ existing knowledge and behaviors.

The team suggests that the effectiveness of brief weight-loss advice could be improved if GPs were given clearer guidance on evidence-based recommendations.

The research was published in Family Practice and conducted by Madeleine Tremblett et al.

If you care about weight loss, please read studies that hop extract could reduce belly fat in overweight people, and early time-restricted eating could help lose weight.

For more information about weight loss, please see recent studies that a low-carb keto diet could manage obesity effectively, and Whole grain foods could help increase longevity.

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