Weight management advice: what do doctors recommend to their patients?

Prev Med. 2009 Dec;49(6):482-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2009.09.015. Epub 2009 Sep 26.


Objective: To examine the weight management interventions that a broad population of adults reported receiving from physicians and assess what drug-related and behavioral information physicians provided when they prescribe weight loss medications.

Methods: A random-digit dialed telephone survey was conducted in 2005-2006 with a representative sample of 3,500 American adults.

Results: The most frequently reported interventions were having a doctor tell them about the health problems associated with being overweight (48.0%), or suggesting diet and exercise (46.5%). Few respondents reported having been referred to a formal diet program (5.2%), prescribed a weight loss medication (4.0%), recommended a non-prescription weight loss product (1.8%), or recommended stomach bypass surgery (1.5%). The proportion of individuals who reported each intervention increased across levels of body mass index (p<0.001). Of those who reported being prescribed a weight loss medication (n=155), only 29.5% (n=44) reported receiving all six counseling interventions that were assessed.

Conclusions: Many overweight patients have not been advised to lose weight, diet, or exercise, and physicians have been particularly reluctant to recommend medications. When physicians do prescribe medications, appropriate counseling too often fails to accompany the prescription. Efforts are needed to increase the involvement of physicians in guiding patients to effective weight management approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Counseling*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • United States
  • Weight Loss*
  • Young Adult