Summa study finds portion control induces greatest weight loss

10/13/04

Summa Health System researchers' results published in September issue of Obesity Research

(Akron, Ohio) The journal, Obesity Research, today published an article on the results of a 24-month federally funded obesity study led by Summa Health System researchers in Akron, Ohio. The study is the first to document that patients who spend a longer time in the action and maintenance stages for portion control or planned exercise were more likely to lose weight. The reverse was also true. Patients who spend less time in the action and maintenance stages for portion control or planned exercise were more likely to gain weight.

According to lead Summa researcher Everett E. Logue, Ph.D., the greatest weight loss in the study was related to portion control. "Although we saw similar patterns of weight loss related to reduced dietary fat consumption, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, increased physical activity and increased planned exercise, the target behavior that induced the greatest weight loss was portion control."

While Logue points out portion control showed the greatest weight loss, the study also suggests planned exercise induced the least. This however, does not surprise Logue.

"Portion control may be behaviorally easier to change than increasing planned exercise for many obese individuals," Logue said. "However, other research suggests that planned exercise is an important component of long-term weight management."

The study found that 38 percent of obese patients who consistently spent two years practicing food portion control lost five percent or more of their baseline weight. Conversely, they concluded that 33 percent of patients who did not consistently practice portion control gained five percent or more of their baseline weight.

"The message in the study is that you have to eat fewer calories and/or burn more calories if you want to loss weight," Logue said. "There are no short cuts. However, there are multiple ways of eating fewer calories and/or burning more calories. The trick is to find a way of eating and exercising that works for you that you can maintain for a lifetime. Since we live in an obesogenic environment, you can not rely on the overeating and sedentary signals that the environment is constantly sending. You have to block these signals out (cognitive restructuring) and change your personal environment (change the way that you shop for food, where you eat, and how you spend your non-work time). You cannot follow the crowd, because the crowd is getting more overweight each year."

Patients who inquired about the study and were primary care patients, ages 40 to 69, with elevated body mass indices greater than 27 or elevated waist/hip ratios greater than 0.950 for men or 0.800 for women were eligible for the study.

The data for the study called Reasonable Eating and Activity to Change Health (REACH) was obtained from 329 overweight or obese primary care patients from 15 primary care practices in Northeastern Ohio from July 1998 to December 2002. Eighty-four percent of the participants were between the ages of 40 and 59 years: 30 percent were males; 28 percent identified themselves as African Americans; and 45 percent had body mass indices (BMI) over 34.9 kg/m2.

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