MORE resources should go into helping people maintain weight loss after dieting, rather than focusing on losing weight, research suggests.
In a paper published in the BMJ, researchers from Newcastle University and Fuse, the centre for translational research in public health, found most overweight or obese people regain weight after initial weight loss.
Researchers also found, however, that this regain can be reduced through behavioural changes and medication.
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Obesity is one of the biggest causes of early death worldwide, and weight loss can have a massive impact on prolonging life, so long as the weight is not put back on.
Effective programmes are now widely available, but research has shown weight loss usually peaks at around six months into a weight loss programme followed by a slow regain. Stopping this regain is now one of the key challenges for controlling the obesity epidemic.
In a review of non-surgical weight loss maintenance interventions, the team looked at 45 previous studies from around the world, involving 7,788 people.
The team looked at interventions to support overweight or obese adults who had lost five per cent or more of their body weight to keep weight off. The interventions tested involved dietary changes, physical activity, drugs, food supplements and meal replacements.
Individuals who received lifestyle interventions incorporating both regular physical activity and dietary changes regained 1.56kg less, over a year, than individuals receiving no intervention.
These favourable effects were still evident two years later.
The drug Orlistat also helped participants avoid regaining weight.
Now a team led by Newcastle University is looking to recruit participants from the North-East for a new study into maintaining weight loss.
The team have developed a new approach using digital scales and mobile phones which can access the internet. For more information visit research.ncl.ac.uk/nulevel/.