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8. Advantages of weight loss

The recommendation to treat overweight and obesity is based not only on evidence that relates obesity to increased mortality but also on Evidence Category A - Sources of Evidence –RCT (Randomized controlled trials (rich body of data) – (Definition: Evidence is from endpoints of well-designed RCTs or trials that depart only minimally from randomization that provide a consistent pattern of findings in the population for which the recommendation is made. Category A therefore requires substantial numbers of studies involving substantial numbers of participants). evidence that weight loss reduces risk factors for disease.

 

Thus, weight loss may not only help control diseases worsened by obesity, it may also help decrease the likelihood of developing these diseases. The panel reviewed RCT evidence to determine the effect of weight loss on blood pressure and hypertension, serum/plasma lipid concentrations, and fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin. Recommendations focusing on these conditions underscore the advantages of weight loss.

  1. Blood Pressure

 To evaluate the effect of weight loss on blood pressure and hypertension, 76 articles reporting RCTs were considered for inclusion in these guidelines. Of the 45 accepted articles, 35 were lifestyle trials and 10 were pharmacotherapy trials. There is strong and consistent evidence from these lifestyle trials in both overweight hypertensive and  nonhypertensive patients that weight loss produced by lifestyle modifications reduces blood pressure levels. Limited evidence exists that decreases in abdominal fat will reduce blood pressure in overweight nonhypertensive individuals, although not independent of weight loss, and there is considerable evidence that increased aerobic activity to increase cardio respiratory fitness reduces blood pressure (independent of weight loss).

There is also suggestive evidence from randomized trials that weight loss produced by most weight loss medications, except for sibutramine, in combination with adjuvant lifestyle modifications will be accompanied by reductions in blood pressure. Based on a review of the evidence from the 45 RCT blood pressure articles, the panel makes the following recommendation:

Weight loss is recommended to lower elevated blood pressure in overweight and obese persons with high blood pressure.

  1. Serum/Plasma Lipids

 Sixty-five RCT articles were evaluated for the effect of weight loss on serum/plasma concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)-cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL-cholesterol. Studies were conducted on individuals over a range of obesity and lipid levels. Of the 22 articles accepted for inclusion in these guidelines, 14 RCT articles examined lifestyle trials while the remaining 8 articles reviewed pharmacotherapy trials.

There is strong evidence from the 14 lifestyle trials that weight loss produced by lifestyle modifications in overweight individuals is accompanied by reductions in serum triglycerides and by increases in HDL-cholesterol. Weight loss generally produces some reductions in serum total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol. Limited evidence exists that a decrease in abdominal fat correlates with improvements in lipids, although the effect may not be independent of weight loss, and there is strong evidence that increased aerobic activity to increase cardiorespiratory fitness favorably affects blood lipids, particularly if accompanied by weight loss. There is suggestive evidence from the eight randomized pharmacotherapy trials that weight loss produced by weight loss medications and adjuvant lifestyle modifications, including caloric restriction and physical activity, does not result in consistent effects on blood lipids. The following recommendation is based on the review of the data in these 22 RCT articles:

Weight loss is recommended to lower elevated levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglycerides, and to raise low levels of HDL-cholesterol in overweight and obese persons with dyslipidemia.

3. Blood Glucose

To evaluate the effect of weight loss on fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels, 49 RCT articles were reviewed for inclusion in these guidelines. Of the 17 RCT articles accepted, 9 RCT articles examined lifestyle therapy trials and 8 RCT articles considered the effects of pharmacotherapy on weight loss and subsequent changes in blood glucose. There is strong evidence from the nine lifestyle therapy trials that weight loss produced by lifestyle modification reduces blood glucose levels in overweight and obese persons without diabetes, and weight loss reduces blood glucose levels and HbAlc in some patients with type 2 diabetes.

There is suggestive evidence that decreases in abdominal fat will improve glucose tolerance in overweight individuals with impaired glucose tolerance, although not independent of weight loss; and there is limited evidence that increased cardiorespiratory fitness improves glucose tolerance in overweight individuals with impaired glucose tolerance or diabetes, although not independent of weight loss.

In addition, there is suggestive evidence from randomized trials that weight loss induced by weight loss medications does not appear to improve blood glucose levels any better than weight loss through lifestyle therapy in overweight persons both with and without type 2 diabetes. Based on a full review of the data in these 17 RCT articles, the panel makes the following recommendation:

Weight loss is recommended to lower elevated blood glucose levels in overweight and obese persons with type 2 diabetes.

4. Measurement of Degree of Overweight and Obesity

Patients should have their BMI and levels of abdominal fat measured not only for the initial assessment of the degree of overweight and obesity, but also as a guide to the efficacy of weight loss treatment. Although there are no RCTs that review measurements of overweight and obesity, the panel determined that this aspect of patient care warranted further consideration and that this guidance was deemed valuable. Therefore, the following four recommendations that are included in the Treatment Guidelines were basedon nonrandomized studies as well as clinical experience.

  1. BMI To Assess Overweight and Obesity

 There are a number of accurate methods to assess body fat (e.g., total body water, total body potassium, bioelectrical impedance, and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry), but no trial data exist to indicate that one measure of fatness is better than any other for following overweight and obese patients during treatment.

Since measuring body fat by these techniques is often expensive and is not readily available, a more practical approach for the clinical setting is the measurement of BMI; epidemiological and observational studies have shown that BMI provides an acceptable approximation of total body fat for the majority of patients. Because there are no published studies that compare the effectiveness of different measures for evaluating changes in body fat during weight reduction, the panel bases its recommendation on expert judgment from clinical experience:

Practitioners should use the BMI to assess overweight and obesity. Body weight alone can be used to follow weight loss, and to determine efficacy of therapy. Evidence Category C.

 2. BMI to Estimate Relative Risk

In epidemiological studies, BMI is the favored measure of excess weight to estimate relative risk of disease. BMI correlates both with morbidity and mortality; the relative risk for CVD (cardiovascular diseases)  risk factors and CVD incidence increases in a graded fashion with increasing BMI in all population groups. Moreover, calculating BMI is simple, rapid, and inexpensive, and can be applied generally to adults. The panel, therefore, makes this recommendation:

The BMI should be used to classify overweight and obesity and to estimate relative risk of disease compared to normal weight. Evidence Category C.

 3. Assessing Abdominal Fat

For the most effective technique for assessing abdominal fat content, the panel considered measures of waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography. Evidence from epidemiological studies shows waist circumference to be a better marker of abdominal fat content than WHR, and that it is the most practical anthropometric measurement for assessing a patient’s abdominal fat content before and during weight loss treatment.

Computed tomography and MRI are both more accurate but impractical for routine clinical use. Based on evidence that waist circumference is a better marker than WHR-and taking into account that the MRI and computed tomography techniques are expensive and not readily available for clinical practice - the panel makes the following recommendation: The waist circumference should be used to assess abdominal fat content. Evidence Category C.

 4. Sex-Specific Measurements

Evidence from epidemiological studies indicates that a high waist circumference is  associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and CVD. Therefore, the panel judged that sex-specific cutoffs for waist circumference can be used to identify increased risk associated with abdominal fat in adults with a BMI in the range of 25 to 34.9. These cut points can be applied to all adult ethnic or racial groups. On the other hand, if a patient is very short, or has a BMI above the 25 to 34.9 range, waist cut points used for the general population may not be applicable.

Based on the evidence from nonrandomized studies, the panel makes this recommendation: For adult patients with a BMI of 25 to 34.9 kg/m2, sex-specific waist circumference cutoffs should be used in conjunction with BMI to identify increased disease risks. Evidence Category C.

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