Commercial Products and Programmes in Obesity Management
- The commercial weight-loss industry is enormous. Clinicians should familiarise themselves with the commercial obesity-management offerings in their vicinity as well as the Health Service Executive selfmanagement interventions that support individuals living with a chronic condition, including obesity1.
- Criteria have been published to evaluate whether a commercial programme is safe and potentially effective (i.e., offering a combination of nutrition, physical activity and behaviour change support; with realistic weight-loss goals of 0.5–1.0 kg per week; a long-term weight-maintenance approach; a good safety profile; and reasonable costs). A checklist for clinicians has been developed as a resource to support this chapter (Appendix: Clinician’s Guide — The 10 safety criteria for commercial weight-management programmes).
- None of the weight-loss products from the commercial industry that were studied in randomised control trials of more than 12-weeks duration were shown to produce clinically meaningful weight loss.
- Some commercial programmes that combine nutrition, physical activity and support can be used to induce modest weight loss. Some programmes have also shown improvement in glycaemia in patients with obesity and diabetes but no effect on lipids or blood pressure have been demonstrated.
- For adults living with overweight or obesity, some commercial programmes exist which should achieve mild to moderate weight loss over the short or medium term, and a mild reduction of glycated haemoglobin values over a short term in adults with type 2 diabetes compared to usual care or education, However, none of those programmes are currently available in Ireland2.
- We do not recommend the use of over-the-counter commercial weight-loss products for obesity management, owing to lack of evidence (Level 4, Grade D)3.
- We do not suggest that commercial weight-loss programmes be used for improvement in blood pressure and lipid control in adults living with obesity (Level 4, Grade D)4.
- The commercial weight-loss industry is flourishing and is often characterised by unrealistic advertising. Before participating in a commercial programme or using a commercial weight-loss product, people with obesity should ensure that the approach is safe and potentially effective (a combination of nutrition, physical activity and behaviour-change support; realistic weight-loss goals of 0.5–1.0 kg per week; a long-term weight-maintenance approach; a good safety profile; and reasonable costs).
- People living with overweight or obesity should be very cautious of weight-loss programmes that: i) promise weight loss without nutrition or activity ii) promise weight loss while eating as much food as you want; iii) promise reduction of weight from particular locations on the body; iv) promise overly rapid loss (for example: losing 30 pounds in 30 days); or v) include before and after photos and personal endorsements that seem too good to be true.
- Many natural weight-loss products and food supplements for weight loss are available without a prescription but none of these have been proven to provide clinically meaningful weight loss in highquality scientific studies.
- Some commercial programmes have been shown to be effective to produce modest weight loss. These are not always the most suitable option for everyone but are generally considered safe.
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