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A Good Weight Loss Program is Hard to Find, Study Says

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People with medically serious weight issues may have a hard time finding a reliable method to shed pounds, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

For the study, researchers evaluated 200 weight-loss programs in specific areas of Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia. The main problem, they found, is that most programs don't adhere closely enough to expert medical guidelines for weight loss.

"The nutrition and weight loss industry is like the Wild West," says Kimberly Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of medicine and a weight loss specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "There is very little oversight, and it's hard for consumers and medical professionals alike to tell what is effective, reliable and meets guidelines' standards."

A high price tag with questionable results?

The study also found that most programs are costly to consumers - ranging anywhere from $40 to $600 per month.

Additionally, the behavioral, dietary or exercise strategies these program recommend aren't clear enough for consumers, the study found. Only 15 percent of programs reported prescribing FDA-approved medications, but 34 percent endorsed weight-loss supplements - most of which do not come with scientific proof of efficacy and can cause serious health issues.

While the current study only included weight-loss programs in urban areas, the researchers hope to do more studies in other areas.

"It will be important to look at rural settings, other regions and additional forms of programs, such as phone- and Internet-based programs, in future research," Gudzune said. "We also need to look more closely at program cost and insurance coverage in future studies, as this information will be helpful for patients and referring doctors."

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine