Male inclusion in randomized controlled trials of lifestyle weight loss interventions

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Jun;20(6):1234-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.140. Epub 2011 Jun 2.


The prevalence of obesity is similar for men (32.2%) and women (35.5%). It has been assumed that lifestyle weight loss interventions have been developed and tested in predominately female samples, but this has not been systematically investigated. The aim of this review was to investigate total and ethnic male inclusion in randomized controlled trials of lifestyle interventions. PUBMED, MEDLINE, and PSYCHINFO were searched for randomized controlled trials of lifestyle weight loss interventions (N = 244 studies with a total of 95,207 participants) published in the last 10 years (1999-2009). A trial must be in English, included weight loss as an outcome, and tested a dietary, exercise, and/or other behavioral intervention for weight loss. Results revealed samples were on average 27% male vs. 73% female (P < 0.001). Trials recruiting a diseased sample included a larger proportion of males than those not targeting a disease (35% vs. 21%; P < 0.001). About 32% of trials used exclusively female samples, whereas only 5% used exclusively male samples (P < 0.001). No studies in the past 10 years specifically targeted minority males. Ethnic males identified composed 1.8% of total participants in US studies. Only 24% of studies that underrepresented males provided a reason. Males, especially ethnic males, are underrepresented in lifestyle weight loss trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Men's Health*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Loss*