In a recent study published in the PLOS ONE Journal, researchers delved into the shifting landscape of weight loss practices across two decades, utilizing data gleaned from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 1999 and 2018. This study probed the utilization of exercise, dietary modifications, and pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical products for weight management among individuals, both obese and non-obese, of all genders.
Over the past twenty years, the United States has witnessed an alarming surge in obesity rates. Alongside this surge, there has been a notable surge in research and efforts directed at combating excess weight.
Weight loss, a multi-faceted endeavor, is pursued through a variety of methods encompassing dietary changes, physical activity, weight loss products, and pharmaceutical interventions. Yet, the dynamics of these approaches in terms of popularity, trends over time, and how they are influenced by obesity status or gender have remained relatively unexplored.
Previous studies have hinted at women’s greater engagement in weight loss practices compared to men, particularly in the domain of dieting. However, the evolving patterns of these trends and their temporal shifts have been left unexamined. Similarly, while it’s well-documented that obese individuals are more inclined to embark on weight loss journeys compared to their non-obese counterparts, the differences in the strategies they employ remain poorly understood. Beyond individual preferences, external factors such as media influence and guidance from healthcare professionals may also shape the favorability of specific weight loss strategies.
In this study, researchers harnessed publicly available data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in the U.S. over a two-decade span, from 1999 to 2018. The primary objectives were to unravel the changing patterns in weight loss practices, discern any correlations with obesity status and gender, and identify potential shifts over the years.
The study involved individuals aged 20 and above, offering comprehensive insights into their body mass index (BMI), smoking status, weight loss practices, and educational backgrounds. Pregnant individuals and those with a BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2 were excluded from the analysis. Data concerning demographic characteristics and weight loss practices were collected via questionnaires.
Participants who reported intentional weight loss within the past year were further queried about the specific methods they employed. The practices under scrutiny included exercise, reducing food portions or opting for lower-calorie food choices, skipping meals, limiting fat intake, liquid diets, dietary product consumption, adherence to special weight loss diets, upping water consumption, engagement in weight loss programs, and use of medications or dietary products.
Pharmaceutical or dietary weight loss products and laxatives were categorized as medications or diet products, whereas practices involving dietary and liquid modifications for weight loss were categorized as diet-related practices. Data spanning from 2005 to 2018 underwent further analysis, focusing on specific dietary restrictions like sugar and carbohydrate intake and an increase in vegetable and fruit consumption. Obesity was defined based on a BMI exceeding 30 kg/m2.