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Weight-loss programs may yield best results for obese

overweight man

 (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

Joining a weight-loss program may be the best bet for obese people who want to lose weight, a new study suggests.

Obese survey participants who reported losing at least 10 percent of their body weight in the previous year were more likely to have joined a weight-loss program, compared with those who hadn't lost that amount of weight.  

Participants who reported losing at least 5 percent of body weight in the previous year were more likely to say they ate less fat, exercised more and used prescription weight-loss medications.

Eating diet foods and products, taking nonprescription diet pills, and using popular diets were less successful strategies, according to the researchers.

"This suggests that the structure of being in a program may be more important," said study researcher Dr. Jacinda Nicklas, of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Moreover, "it is possible that some dieters may be overeating diet products because they believe they are healthy, or low in calories."

The study showed associations between weight-loss strategies and actual weight loss, not cause-and-effect links, and more research is needed to confirm the findings.

About a third of people in the U.S. are obese  , and 50 to 70 percent of them are trying to lose weight, according to the study.  

Nicklas and her colleagues analyzed data collected on 4,000 obese adults during the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey conducted from 2001 to 2006. The survey collects demographic, health, and health behavior information from U.S. adults.

The survey showed that 63 percent of the respondents had tried to lose weight in the last year; regardless of whether they were successful, these participants were shown a list of weight-loss strategies and asked which ones they used.

About 500 of the study participants reported losing 10 percent of their body weight or more in the previous year. About 1,000 said they lost 5 percent.

About 10 percent of study participants said they joined a weight-loss program.

There was no evidence that liquid diets, nonprescription diet pills and popular diets  were linked with successful weight loss, according to the study. In fact, people who reported losing more than 10 percent of their body weight were less likely to report eating diet foods and products, compared with those who lost less.

In the study, prescription weight-loss medications were associated with successful weight loss , though the researchers said only 3.5 percent of participants reported using them. Nonprescription weight-loss pills, which were not linked with weight loss, were used by about 10 percent of participants.

"These results tell us that Americans use many weight-loss strategies that are not associated with significant weight loss, including nonprescription weight loss medications. Public health efforts directing Americans to adopt more proven methods may be warranted," Nicklas said.

The study will be published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  

Pass it on: For obese people, joining a weight-loss program yields the best results, a new study shows.