University of Georgia researchers examined data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that a doctor’s recommendation was associated with a 10-pound weight loss among women and a 12-pound weight loss among men.
The findings included people who were advised to lose weight even if they weren’t ready to hear the message, the researchers noted.
The study didn’t show that getting weight loss counsel from your doctor would definitively lead to weight loss, but advice from a physician was linked to greater odds of weight loss. Not surprisingly, dietary habits and exercise played a role in weight loss, the study found.
The researchers also noted that a doctor’s advice to lose weight seemed to help people prevent weight gain.
“People often gain weight as they age. The recommendation of weight loss mitigated weight gain more than it facilitated weight loss,” study author Joshua Berning, an assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said in a university news release.
The study was published in the April issue of the journal Economics & Human Biology.
One reason a doctor’s recommendation may lead to greater weight loss is that a doctor is able to assess multiple factors—such as diet, exercise and medical history—to determine if a patient is at risk for obesity, according to Berning.
“If I talk to a physician, he or she can tell me about my current health and my health trajectory. Oftentimes we have a sense of complacency with our own health. A good physician can help us understand what kind of health trajectory we are on and how we can improve it,” he said.
This personalized information may be one reason why doctors might have an advantage over commercial weight-loss programs, according to Berning.
“Since commercial weight-loss programs are for profit, they can be prohibitively expensive,” Berning said. “Health care provider advice is more affordable and achievable for a wider population. Doctors can identify obesity problems earlier on and build long-term relationships with their patients.”
The problem is that doctors often don’t take the time to talk with their patients about weight, Berning concluded.