Background: Congressional hearings initiated in March 1990 revealed that America's $10 billion a year weight loss industry is subject to minimal regulation by federal agencies. Consumers are forced to rely on advertisements and testimonials when selecting treatment because no proprietary program has provided a prospective assessment of its short- and long-term results of treatment. This report describes such an assessment.
Methods: A total of 517 obese patients (407 women and 110 men) participated in a proprietary program that included 12 weeks of treatment by very-low-calorie diet within a 26-week program of life-style modification. Patients were treated in two cohorts (6 months apart) according to a standardized protocol implemented at 18 hospital-based clinics across the nation.
Results: Fifty-six percent of women and 54% of men completed treatment, at which time their weight losses (mean +/- SEM) were 22.0 +/- 0.6 and 32.1 +/- 1.4 kg, respectively. Weight losses of women and men who discontinued treatment averaged 14.3 +/- 0.7 and 20.0 +/- 1.6 kg, respectively. Weight loss was associated with significant improvements in blood pressure and total serum cholesterol levels. A 1-year follow-up evaluation of 74% of patients in the second cohort who completed treatment revealed that they maintained 15.3 +/- 1.2 of their 24.8 +/- 1.0-kg end-of-treatment weight loss; 59% of patients maintained a loss of 10 kg or more.
Conclusion: We hope that this report will lead to the systematic evaluation of other proprietary weight loss programs and to the publication of findings that will permit consumers to make informed treatment decisions.