Physicians should measure the height and weight of all of their patients to determine if they are obese and refer those patients to intensive diet and exercise programs, according to new guidelines released Monday by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Reuters reports.
Individuals are considered obese if they have a body mass index of 30 or higher (Pittman, Reuters, 6/26).
In 2003, USPSTF advised primary care providers to screen for obesity. The new guidelines expand on that advisory by providing specific recommendations on the type of weight-control interventions that are most effective, according to USA Today.
Following a review of 58 weight-loss studies, USPSTF found that there is adequate scientific evidence to show that intense, comprehensive behavioral weight-loss programs -- including 12 to 26 individual sessions in the first year -- can help obese patients lose about 6% of their starting weight (Hellmich, USA Today, 6/25). USPSTF also concluded that the most successful weight-loss programs are those that focus on nutrition and exercise.
In addition, the task force noted that optimal weight-loss programs:
- Identify barriers to change;
- Improve patients' knowledge about nutrition;
- Set weight-loss goals;
- Teach patients how to track their eating and set limits; and
- Develop ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
However, USPSTF acknowledged that there is no scientific evidence that indicates whether such intensive programs provide long-term benefits (Healy, Los Angeles Times, 6/25).
Obesity experts applauded the panel's recommendations, USA Today reports.
Thomas Wadden, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, said USPSTF's recommendations are "right on target" and "complement" recent recommendations by CMS for obese elderly U.S. residents (USA Today, 6/25).
However, Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, said the recommendations could place a burden on physicians who lack the time and resources to provide obese individuals with intensive counseling (Los Angeles Times, 6/25).