Casting aspersions on the effectiveness of current weight management programs focused on dieting and exercise, new research shows that chances of obese people recovering normal body weight are very slim.
The chance of an obese person attaining normal body weight is one in 210 for men and one in 124 for women, increasing to one in 1,290 for men and one in 677 for women with severe obesity, the findings showed.
"Once an adult becomes obese, it is very unlikely that they will return to a healthy body weight," said study's first author Alison Fildes from the University College London.
The findings suggest that current weight management programs focused on dieting and exercise are not effective in tackling obesity at population level.
The research tracked the weight of 278,982 participants (129,194 men and 149,788) women using electronic health records from 2004 to 2014.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health
, looked at the probability of obese patients attaining normal weight or a five percent reduction in body weight. Patients who received bariatric surgery were excluded from the study.
The annual chance of obese patients achieving five percent weight loss was one in 12 for men and one in 10 for women.
For those people who achieved five percent weight loss, 53 percent regained this weight within two years and 78 percent had regained the weight within five years.
Overall, only 1,283 men and 2,245 women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30-35 reached their normal body weight, equivalent to an annual probability of one in 210 for men and one in 124 for women.
For those with a BMI above 40, the odds increased to one in 1,290 for men and one in 677 for women with severe obesity.
Weight cycling, with both increases and decreases in body weight, was also observed in more than a third of patients.
"This evidence suggests the current system is not working for the vast majority of obese patients," Fildes said.