Willing to go the extra mile: Prospective evaluation of an intensified non-surgical treatment for patients with morbid obesity

Clin Nutr. 2019 Aug;38(4):1773-1781. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.07.027. Epub 2018 Aug 1.


Background & aims: Bariatric surgery has been well established and considered the treatment of choice in morbid obesity. However, some patients refuse surgery because long-term effects have not been fully elucidated, quality of life might change and lifelong supplementation with vitamins and trace elements may be required. Our aim was to exhaust non-surgical treatment modalities and to evaluate such an intensified treatment alternative.

Methods: A total of 206 patients (mean age = 46 years; BMI = 49 kg/m2) enrolled since 2013 into a non-surgical multimodality obesity treatment program covered by major health insurances were prospectively evaluated over a three year period. The 12-month treatment course comprised 57 h cognitive-behavioral therapy, 53.5 h physical exercise training, and 43.5 h nutritional therapy offered in small groups. Weight loss was induced by a formula-based, very low-calorie diet for 12 weeks in combination with a gastric balloon. The primary outcome was relative weight loss (RWL). Secondary outcome measures were waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, antihypertensive drug treatment, anti-diabetic medication, HbA1c, and quality of life.

Results: 166 Patients (81%) completed treatment. Mean (±SD) weight loss after 12 months for women and men were 28.8 kg (±14.7) and 33.7 kg (±19.5), respectively, among completers. RWL was 21.9% (±10.0) and excess weight loss (EWL) was 46.9% (±22.2), whereas intention-to-treat analysis revealed a RWL of 20.0% (±10.4) and an EWL of 42.9% (±22.9). Weight loss was accompanied by improved quality of life, lowered HbA1c values, and a significantly reduced need of antihypertensive and diabetes medications over the study period. Three year follow-up data from the first 78 patients (76% follow-up rate) revealed a RWL of 13% (±13.1) and an EWL of 27.2% (±28.8). The majority of patients (51%) maintained a RWL of 10% or more, and 44% had an EWL > 30%.

Conclusions: In patients with morbid obesity, an intensified non-surgical multimodality treatment program may achieve significant and sustained weight loss accompanied by improvement of disease markers as well as quality of life for at least three years.

Keywords: Gastric balloon; Multicomponent treatment; Non-surgical treatment; Obesity; Very low-calorie diet.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Female
  • Gastric Balloon
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Morbid* / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Morbid* / physiopathology
  • Obesity, Morbid* / therapy
  • Patient Compliance
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Young Adult