Study finds lifestyle modification and weight loss medication superior to either approach used alone

According to a study that appears in the November 17 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that weight loss medications work best when combined with dieters' own efforts to modify their eating and exercise habits. Study participants who received combined therapy lost significantly more weight than all other groups.

"Weight loss medications helped people lose weight, as did a program of lifestyle modification designed to improve eating and exercise habits. However, we found that a combination of the two approaches produced approximately twice the weight loss of either intervention used alone," reported Thomas A. Wadden, Ph.D., lead author of the paper and director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at Penn. The research was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Study Protocol

The one-year study examined 180 women and 44 men with an average age of 44 years, weight of 235 lb., and body mass index of 37.7 kg/m2. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups, all of which were instructed to consume 1200-1500 calories a day and to exercise 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.

Participants in the first group were prescribed 10-15 mg/d of the weight loss medication sibutramine (MERIDIATM, Abbott Laboratories) and had 8 brief (10-15 min) visits during the year with a primary care practitioner. These individuals received minimal instruction in lifestyle modification, consistent with the manner in which most physicians prescribe weight loss medications.

Individuals in the second group received group lifestyle modification alone, which is recommended as the first step of treatment for all overweight and obese individuals. They attended a total of 30 group sessions (90 minutes each) over the year and were instructed to keep daily r

Contact: Kate Olderman
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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