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Study finds Americans can't lose weight, even though they try

"Obesity has been increasing in the US, while many people have made efforts to lose weight," study co-author Lu Qi told UPI.

By Brian P. Dunleavy
Study finds Americans can't lose weight, even though they try
A new study suggests Americans are trying to lose weight -- just not successfully. File Photo by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Nov. 13 (UPI) -- More and more Americans are trying to lose weight, but few are finding success, a new study has found.

According to figures published Wednesday in the journal JAMA: Diabetes and Endocrinology, the percentage of U.S. adults 20 and older that have attempted a weight-loss regimen has increased from 34.3 percent in 1999 to 42.2 percent in 2016. However, over the same period, researchers found increases in weight and weight gain -- an indication that their efforts may be in vain.

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"Obesity has been increasing in the US, while many people have made efforts to lose weight," study co-author Lu Qi, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center, told UPI.

He and his colleagues felt "a study linking the trends in weight loss attempts and weight change may help figure out whether the previous strategies were effective or not," he added.

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Qi and an international team of researchers reviewed data from nearly 50,000 people who participated in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES. They reviewed the data in two-year periods, from 1999 through 2016.

Notably, over the 18-year study period, mean weight of the participants increased from approximately 176 pounds to roughly 184 pounds. And, though a minimum of one in four participants reported trying to lose weight in each of the two-year periods, they appeared to be unsuccessful. For example, among those trying to lose weight within the 2015-16 time frame, there was a reported mean weight gain of eight pounds.

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The study findings also suggest that strategies people are using to try and lose weight have changed since the late 1990s.

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The most commonly reported weight loss strategies among study participants were reduced food consumption, which increased from 21.2 percent to 31.9 percent over the study period; exercise, from 18.2 percent to 31.5 percent; and frequent water intake, from 0.2 percent to 26.3 percent.

From 2005-2006 to 2015-2016, the authors also noted increases in participants reporting increased consumption of more fruits, vegetables, and salads, from 0.1 percent to 29.4 percent; changed eating habits, from 0.3 percent to 20.5 percent; and reduced consumption of sugar, candy and sweets, from 0.2 percent to 20.9 percent.

"Poor long-term adherence to weight-loss attempts is likely to be a major reason" these strategies were unsuccessful, Qi noted. He added that the findings of the research suggest that healthcare providers need to "increase the promotion of effective strategies for reducing calorie intake."

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