'Maintain, don't gain' approach might work better for obese black women

Historically, programs aimed at helping black women lose weight are not as successful as interventions used on black men, white men or white women.

But new research from Duke University suggests that a "maintain, don't gain" approach – a tactic that could help prevent health problems that occur as a result of obesity-related disease – could work better for this population.

The study

The study included 194 premenopausal black women between the ages of 25 and 44. Ninety-seven women were randomly placed in a primary care-based intervention program, while the other 97 women received usual care and general weight-loss counseling from their physicians. Both groups were simply asked to maintain their weights for the duration of the study.

Women in the intervention group received individualized goals and physical activity recommendations through a health coach and were also given access to a gym.

At the 12-month mark, the intervention group showed stabilization in weight, while the usual care group gained weight. This pattern continued after 18 months.

Is prevention better than nothing?

The study's authors claim that many weight-loss regimes can be too overwhelming to implement effectively, leading to yo-yo weight loss and gain.

Lead author Gary Bennett, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and global health at Duke, explained:

Many people go to great lengths to lose weight when their doctor recommends it. They may try a series of diets or join a gym or undergo really complex medical regimens. The complexity of these treatments can make it difficult for many to lose a sufficient amount of weight.

The study cited other research showing that slightly obese premenopausal black women have fewer risks for developing chronic diseases than obese white people or people from other racial groups. But by the time they reach ages 40-59, black women have twice the rate of obesity than white women and much higher rates of chronic disease. Preventing weight gain during the premenopausal years, therefore, could reduce this population's risk for developing health problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and some cancers, the authors said.

Since preventing weight gain is easier than trying to lose weight, Bennett said, black women might be particularly responsive to a "maintain, don't gain" message about their weight.

"We could reduce these health risks if women simply maintained their current weight," he said. "Fortunately, it's much easier to maintain weight than it is to lose it. We think this 'maintain, don't gain' approach can help some women reduce their risk of obesity-related chronic disease."

Results of the study are published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Source: Medical Xpress

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