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Behavioral Counseling can be Effective for Weight Loss

Update Date: Nov 06, 2014 10:39 AM EST

When it comes to shedding pounds, a lot of people might take drastic measures, such as weight loss pills and surgery because the traditional method of diet and exercise was ineffective for them. In a new study, researchers examined anther weight loss method called behavioral counseling and concluded that this type of nonmedical treatment can be effective.

For this study, the researchers head by Thomas Wadden, the director of the Penn's Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, analyzed more than 3,000 study abstracts to evaluate the effectiveness of weight loss counseling and meetings for overweight or obese patients with Medicare or Medicaid. Medicare and Medicaid agreed to reimburse primary care providers for weight loss counseling three years ago.

The team wanted to focus on sessions held by primary care providers, which include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners or nurse specialists. However, they did not find a single study that fit into their requirements.

"There's a good reason that we couldn't find any studies," Wadden said reported by NBC Philadelphia. "Primary care practitioners are among the busiest people in the world, taking care of just so many different health problems that they encounter each day. So I really don't think that they have time to meet weekly or every other week to provide weight loss counseling."

Instead, the researchers focused on the studies that examined the role of weight loss counseling conducted by other specialists, such as registered dietitians and fitness instructors, for overweight and obese individuals. The team found that in these studies, specialists who combined diet and exercise with behavioral skills had the most success in helping their overweight/obese clients lose weight.

The researchers concluded that behavioral counseling, regardless of who conducts it, could be helpful. Wadden added that insurance programs should consider reimbursing other kinds of trained health professionals that could offer weight-loss behavioral counseling at a much lower cost.

"I think we're going to see an increasing use of call centers in disease-management programs," Wadden said. "You potentially will be talking on the phone in Philadelphia with someone who is in Iowa, helping you with your weight control."

The study, "Behavioral Treatment of Obesity in Patients Encountered in Primary Care Settings: A Systematic Review," was published in JAMA.

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