Study suggests lifestyle changes, anti-obesity medications can lead to long-term weight loss

Lifestyle changes and anti-obesity medication led to obese and overweight people losing an average 10.6% of their weight over three to five years, a new study has found.

Weight loss of over 10% provides significant health benefits, the researchers, who presented their findings at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, ENDO 2022, said.

Lead researcher Michael A. Weintraub of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York told the Endocrine Society: “Data on the effectiveness of anti-obesity medications for long-term weight loss maintenance in the real world has been limited to one to two years.”

“Our study is unique because we analysed weight loss maintenance over 3-5 years in more than 400 adults with overweight and obesity who were taking weight-loss medications.”

The researchers reviewed data from 428 patients at an academic weight management centre for their study. The obesity medicine specialist offered all the patients counselling that focused on a low-glycaemic diet and exercise during their office visits. The patients were also offered additional counselling with a dietitian.

The medical therapy used during the programme included off-label weight-loss medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The most common medications were phentermine, metformin, and topiramate. At the final visit, patients were taking two medications on an average for weight management.

The researchers followed the patients for a median of 4.7 years. They lost and maintained an average of 10.6%, maintained with lifestyle interventions and medical therapy over three to five years.

Weintraub said: “A 10% weight loss is clinically significant because it is associated with improvements in cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obstructive sleep apnoea as well as improvements in mobility and overall quality of life.”

The United States has long struggled to control obesity and has one of the highest obesity rates among large countries. Noting that the country’s obesity rate is approaching 40%, Weintraub said: “Anti-obesity medications are an underutilized treatment option for obesity and can prevent obesity-related diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

“This research supports the utility of anti-obesity medications in achieving long-term weight loss maintenance.” 

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