Conference Coverage

Calorie counting and exercise ‘of limited value’ for obesity weight loss



Counting calories, joining a gym, and taking part in exercise programs are popular methods used by people in the United Kingdom who want to shed some pounds, but they seem to be fairly ineffective strategies, according to an investigation.

A survey of adults with obesity from six countries in western Europe found that most who set out to reduce a meaningful amount of weight failed in their attempt.

The preliminary results, presented in two posters at the European Congress on Obesity, underlined the need for better support and solutions for weight management, the authors suggested.

Marc Evans, MB, BCh, a consultant physician in diabetes and endocrinology, from University Hospital, Cardiff, Wales, who led the analysis, said that, “while obesity’s impact on health is well known, our finding that a sizable proportion of adults with obesity appear at elevated risk of hospitalization or surgery due to multiple underlying illnesses, undoubtedly adds a sense of urgency to tackling Europe’s growing obesity epidemic.”

The study, which also involved analytics consultancy firm Lane Clark & Peacock, conducted a cross-sectional survey of 1,850 adults. Of those 500 were from the UK, and the remainder from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.

All participants had a body mass index of 30 kg/m2, or higher. More specifically, 56.3%; were classified as obesity class I, 26.8% obesity class II, and 16.9% obesity class III.

Obesity-related conditions

In total, 25.7% of participants reported no obesity-related health conditions, 28.4% had one condition, 19.6% had two, and 26.3% had three or more. The most common comorbidities were hypertension, dyslipidemia, and type 2 diabetes.

Overall, 78.6% of respondents reported having tried to lose weight in the previous year. Asked in a questionnaire about how they had tried to achieve this, the responses indicated that the most common strategies were:

  • Calorie-controlled/restricted diet (71.9%)
  • Exercise program course (21.9%)
  • Pharmaceutical treatment/medication (12.3%)
  • Joined a gym (12%)
  • Digital health app (9.7%)

Among other participants, 8.1% said they had used alternative treatments, 7.6% a weight loss service, and 2.1% cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Analysis of the survey results showed that 78% of the individuals who attempted to lose weight did not achieve a clinically meaningful loss of 5% or more of their body weight, while some actually weighed more afterward.


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