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Clinical Crossroads
September 3, 2014

Assessment and Lifestyle Management of Patients With ObesityClinical Recommendations From Systematic Reviews

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
  • 2Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
JAMA. 2014;312(9):943-952. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.10432
Abstract

Importance  Even though one-third of US adults are obese, identification and treatment rates for obesity remain low. Clinician engagement is vital to provide guidance and assistance to patients who are overweight or obese to address the underlying cause of many chronic diseases.

Objectives  To describe current best practices for assessment and lifestyle management of obesity and to demonstrate how the updated Guidelines (2013) for Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults based on a systematic evidence review sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) can be applied to an individual patient.

Evidence Review  Systematic evidence review conducted for the Guidelines (2013) for Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults supports treatment recommendations in 5 areas (risk assessment, weight loss benefits, diets for weight loss, comprehensive lifestyle intervention approaches, and bariatric surgery); for areas outside this scope, recommendations are supported by other guidelines (for obesity, 1998 NHLBI-sponsored obesity guidelines and those from the National Center for Health and Clinical Excellence and Canadian and US professional societies such as the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and American Society of Bariatric Physicians; for physical activity recommendations, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans); a PubMed search identified recent systematic reviews covering depression and obesity, motivational interviewing for weight management, metabolic adaptation to weight loss, and obesity pharmacotherapy.

Findings  The first step in obesity management is to screen all adults for overweight and obesity. A medical history should be obtained assessing for the multiple determinants of obesity, including dietary and physical activity patterns, psychosocial factors, weight-gaining medications, and familial traits. Emphasis on the complications of obesity to identify patients who will benefit the most from treatment is more useful than using body mass index (BMI; calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) alone for treatment decisions. The Guidelines (2013) recommend that clinicians offer patients who would benefit from weight loss (either BMI of ≥30 with or without comorbidities or ≥25 along with 1 comorbidity or risk factor) intensive, multicomponent behavioral intervention. Some clinicians do this within their primary care practices; others refer patients for these services. Weight loss is achieved by creating a negative energy balance through modification of food and physical activity behaviors. The Guidelines (2013) endorse comprehensive lifestyle treatment by intensive intervention. Treatment can be implemented either in a clinician’s office or by referral to a registered dietitian or commercial weight loss program. Weight loss of 5% to 10% is the usual goal. It is not necessary for patients to attain a BMI of less than 25 to achieve a health benefit.

Conclusions and Relevance  Screening and assessment of patients for obesity followed by initiation or referral of treatment should be incorporated into primary care practice settings. If clinicians can identify appropriate patients for weight loss efforts and provide informed advice and assistance on how to achieve and sustain modest weight loss, they will be addressing the underlying driver of many comorbidities and can have a major influence on patients’ health status.

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