Very few people are able to return to a normal weight after becoming obese, a new study carried out in the United Kingdom and published in the American Journal of Public Health has found.
The research revealed that obese men have only a one in 210 chance of shedding excess weight in any given year, and obese women have only a one in 124 chance. For the purposes of this research, people were identified as obese if their BMI fell between 30 and 35.
For people classified as morbidly obese (defined as a BMI between 40 and 45), the odds were only one in 1,290 for men and one in 677 for women. The data set excluded participants who had had weight-loss surgery.
The study, which tracked 278,982 British adults between 2004 and 2014, gleaned data from electronic health records. These record systems have been rapidly adopted both in the UK and the United States. The U.S. federal government has used financial incentives to spur adoption (as of 2013, 69% of physicians were either participating or planning to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentive programs), and the National Health Service in Britain has mirrored many of those efforts.
Analysis of the data did show, however, encouraging figures for people striving to lose 5% of their body weight in a year. One in 12 men and one in 10 women were able to reach this milestone.
But more than a third of the study subjects went through phases of weight loss and weight gain, and most regained the weight within five years.
The researchers say their findings support a public health model that works harder to prevent obesity in the first place, as well as providing weight management programs.
The study was published within a few days of the conclusion of a scientific committee that current daily recommended levels of sugar be halved as part of the fight against obesity. Nutritionists recommend that added sugar should account for no more than 5% of daily calories in order to prevent weight gain and other health problems.