Objectives: To compare importance of rate of initial weight loss for long term outcome in obese patients and to compare efficacy of two different weight maintenance programmes.
Design: Subjects were randomised to either rapid or slow initial weight loss. Completing patients were re-randomised to one year weight maintenance programme of ad lib diet or fixed energy intake diet. Patients were followed up one year later.
Setting: University research department in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Subjects: 43 (41 women) obese adults (body mass index 27-40) who were otherwise healthy living in or around Copenhagen.
Interventions: 8 weeks of low energy diet (2 MJ/day) or 17 weeks of conventional diet (5 MJ/day), both supported by an anorectic compound (ephedrine 20 mg and caffeine 200 mg thrice daily); one year weight maintenance programme of ad lib, low fat, high carbohydrate diet or fixed energy intake diet (< or = 7.8 MJ/day), both with reinforcement sessions 2-3 times monthly.
Main outcome measures: Mean initial weight loss and proportion of patients maintaining a weight loss of > 5 kg at follow up.
Results: Mean initial weight loss was 12.6 kg (95% confidence interval 10.9 to 14.3 kg) in rapid weight loss group and 12.6 (9.9 to 15.3) kg in conventional diet group. Rate of initial weight loss had no effect on weight maintenance after 6 or 12 months of weight maintenance or at follow up. After weight maintenance programme, the ad lib group had maintained 13.2 (8.1 to 18.3) kg of the initial weight loss of 13.5 (11.4 to 15.5) kg, and the fixed energy intake group had maintained 9.7 (6.1 to 13.3) kg of the initial 13.8 (11.8 to 15.7) kg weight loss (group difference 3.5 (-2.4 to 9.3) kg). Regained weight at follow up was greater in fixed energy intake group than in ad lib group (11.3 (7.1 to 15.5) kg v 5.4 (2.3 to 8.6) kg, group difference 5.9 (0.7 to 11.1) kg, P < 0.03). At follow up, 65% of ad lib group and 40% of fixed energy intake group had maintained a weight loss of > 5 kg (P < 0.07).
Conclusion: Ad lib, low fat, high carbohydrate diet was superior to fixed energy intake for maintaining weight after a major weight loss. The rate of the initial weight loss did not influence long term outcome.