Objective: The present investigation examined the extent of publication bias (namely the tendency to publish significant findings and file away non-significant findings) within the obesity treatment literature.
Design: Quantitative literature synthesis of four published meta-analyses from the obesity treatment literature. Interventions in these studies included pharmacological, educational, child, and couples treatments.
Methods: To assess publication bias, several regression procedures (for example weighted least-squares, random-effects multi-level modeling, and robust regression methods) were used to regress effect sizes onto their standard errors, or proxies thereof, within each of the four meta-analysis. A significant positive beta weight in these analyses signified publication bias.
Results: There was evidence for publication bias within two of the four published meta-analyses, such that reviews of published studies were likely to overestimate clinical efficacy. The lack of evidence for publication bias within the two other meta-analyses might have been due to insufficient statistical power rather than the absence of selection bias.
Conclusions: As in other disciplines, publication bias appears to exist in the obesity treatment literature. Suggestions are offered for managing publication bias once identified or reducing its likelihood in the first place.