Largest U.S. Weight-Loss Study Shows Long-Term Weight Control is Possible with Intensive Lifestyle Intervention (ILI)

Jan 14, 2014, 10:15 ET from The Obesity Society

Eight-Year Look AHEAD Results Show 50% of Participants Kept Off 5% or More of Initial Weight Lost

SILVER SPRING, Md., Jan. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The largest United States weight-loss study using diet and exercise alone shows long-term weight loss is possible through intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) for weight management. These results are part of the newly released 8-year findings of the Look AHEAD study published in the January issue of Obesity, the official journal of The Obesity Society. Researchers found that ILI produced clinically meaningful weight loss (>- 5%) over eight years in half of individuals with type 2 diabetes and believe the intervention can be used for long-term management of obesity-related co-morbid conditions. ILI was superior to Diabetes Support and Education (DSE), the standard treatment for diabetes, using several criteria, including percentage of initial weight lost at year 1 (8.5% ILI vs. 0.6% DSE) and kept off at year 8 (4.7% ILI vs. 2.1% DSE).


"Obesity is associated with multiple health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, impaired physical function, and depression, and a 5 percent reduction in initial weight can have significant benefits on health," said study author Thomas Wadden, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania. "This study shows intensive lifestyle programs that involve frequent treatment visits in the first year, and weight-loss maintenance programs in years 2 – 8, can help keep the weight off over the long-term and reduce comorbid conditions. The follow-up rates are the best of any weight loss trial in the U.S., giving us very high confidence in these results and the implications for obesity treatment."

Weight regain for people treated for obesity/overweight is one of the biggest problems facing efforts to combat the epidemic, and prior research has shown that individuals regain the majority of weight lost within three to five years. Although some weight regain occurred in this study, Look AHEAD's 8-year trial results stand in contrast to this prior research, with study participants maintaining more than half of their weight loss after 8 years. Further, nearly 40% of participants who lost >-10% of initial weight at year 1 maintained this loss at year 8.

"The success in keeping off the weight is as good or better than achieved in any other long-term study of diet and exercise for weight loss," said Adam Tsai, MD, The Obesity Society Public Affairs Chair.

According to an editorial on the study in Obesity, this success is "likely due to the intensive and comprehensive nature of the lifestyle intervention, and confidence in the study's findings is underscored by the trial's excellent rate of retention."

In addition, weight losses were similar among men and women, and across racial-ethnic subgroups, indicating that all individuals can benefit from an intensive diet and exercise intervention.  

"Intensive lifestyle interventions, like Look AHEAD, can be successful for people affected by obesity and overweight across the board, regardless of racial-ethnic background, and can lead to improvements in quality of life, mood, mobility, fitness and reduced need for medication," continued Dr. Tsai. "The next step is to replicate interventions like Look AHEAD, but at a lower cost and for more people, and to determine which individuals can benefit most."

The Look AHEAD trial is the largest and longest randomized controlled trial of behavioral intervention for weight loss and was designed to assess the effects of an intensive intervention on cardiovascular disease outcomes, as well as multiple other health outcomes in people with overweight/obesity and type 2 diabetes. The initial results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier in 2013.

Read the full study online here and the editorial here.

About The Obesity Society
The Obesity Society (TOS) is the leading professional society dedicated to better understanding, preventing and treating obesity. Through research, education and advocacy, TOS is committed to improving the lives of those affected by the disease. For more information visit:

SOURCE The Obesity Society