May 17 (UPI) -- Many veterans desperately need weight loss management, but few actually get medical help for the problem, a new study says.
Fewer than 1 percent of those vets use them, despite the growing weight problem within the group, according to research published Wednesday in Obesity.
About 41 percent of veterans are obese and 37 percent are overweight, according to the study.
Obesity can increase the risk for diabetes, depression, hypertension, coronary heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea and various cancer, all of which pose a higher death risk.
"The comparably low rates of use of medicine in and outside the VA are surprising," said Varsha G. Vimalananda, a researcher from the Edith Nourse Roger Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Massachusetts. "Insurance coverage is a major barrier to use outside the VA, but it is a much lesser issue in VA, where veterans can receive them at no or relatively low out-of-pocket cost."
Veterans with the greatest need for weight loss medications have a high body mass index, obstructive sleep apnea, low back pain, alcohol dependency or osteoarthritis.
To help reduce the need for medication, the VA has its MOVE! weight management program, which encourages veterans to eat healthier and engage in physical activity.
According to the researchers, the MOVE! program is the largest weight management program in the United States.
"Of the more than 150,000 participants in MOVE!, only about one percent receive weight management medications," Vimalananda said.