JAMA Logo Getting rid of excess fat may not be all that difficult, or at least the following article suggests so. A groundbreaking study claims that lifestyle interventions, including physical activity and structured weight loss programs, can result in extreme weight loss for overweight, obese and severely obese adults. With obesity spreading like forest fire especially among African American women, the findings seem to be beneficial.

National statistics suggest that 68 percent of the population is overweight and obese. Individuals revealing a BMI of 25 or greater may fall into the category of combined overweight and obesity. Scientists affirm that overweight or obese people have heightened chances of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. The one-year intensive lifestyle intervention study of diet and physical activity was triggered on a randomized group of 130 severely obese adult individuals without diabetes. Participants were divided in two groups to examine weight loss for a period of one year. Triggered from February 2007 the follow-up continued through April 2010.

Experts add, “In conclusion, intensive lifestyle interventions using a behavior-based approach can result in clinically significant and meaningful weight loss and improvements in cardiometabolic risk factors in severely obese persons. It is also clear that physical activity should be incorporated early in any dietary restriction approach to induce weight loss and to reduce hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) and abdominal fat. Our data make a strong case that serious consideration should be given by health care systems to incorporating more intensive lifestyle interventions similar to those used in our study. Additional studies are clearly needed to determine long-term efficacy and cost-effectiveness of such approaches.”

Bret H. Goodpaster, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and colleagues, assigned one group to diet and physical activity for all the 12 months. The other group was provided with identical dietary intervention and delayed physical activity for six months. In order to assist in the dietary compliance and enhance weight loss, liquid and pre-packaged meal replacements were provided at free of cost. It was noted that only one meal per day was given from the first to third month and only one meal replacement was done for each day during fourth to sixth month of the intervention.

Physical activity involved brisk walking up to 60 minutes for five days a week. Volunteers were given a pedometer and urged to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Experts also provided small financial incentives for adherence to the behavioral goals of the intervention. As part of the lifestyle intervention, study subjects also received a combination of group, individual and telephone contacts. Among 130 participants randomized, 101 forming 78 percent accomplished the 12-month follow-up assessments.

The group provided with diet and physical activity reported to lose approximately 24 pounds in the first six months. And the delayed-activity group apparently lost 18 pounds in a period of six months. At 12 months while the group of diet and physical activity registered weight loss of around 27 pounds, delayed-activity group claimed 22 pounds. Both groups seemingly reduced waist circumference, visceral abdominal fat, hepatic (liver) fat content, blood pressure and insulin resistance.

The study will be published in the October 27 print issue of JAMA.