In the majority of overweight and obese patients, adjustment of the diet to reduce caloric intake will be required. Dietary therapy consists, in large part, of instructing patients on how to modify their diets to achieve a decrease in caloric intake. A key element of the current recommendation is the use of a moderate reduction in caloric intake to achieve a slow but progressive weight loss. Ideally, caloric intake should be reduced only to the level required to maintain weight at the desired level. If this level of caloric intake is achieved, excess weight will gradually disappear. In practice, somewhat greater caloric deficits are used in the period of active weight loss, but diets with very low calories are to be avoided. Finally, the composition of the diet should be modified to minimize other cardiovascular risk factors (142).
The centerpiece of dietary therapy for weight loss in overweight patients is a low-calorie diet (LCD) (800 to 1,500 kcal/day). This diet is to be distinguished from a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) (250 to 800 kcal/day), which has been unsuccessful in achieving weight loss over the long term. The LCD recommended in this report also contains a nutrient composition that will decrease other risk factors, notably, high serum cholesterol and hypertension.
Rationale: A decrease in caloric intake is the most important dietary component of weight loss and maintenance. LCDs have been shown to reduce total body weight by an average of 8 percent over a period of 6 months, accompanied by significant reductions in waist circumference. When weight loss occurs, the loss consists of about 75 percent fat and 25 percent lean tissue (556,557). A deficit of 500 to 1,000 kcal/day will produce a weight loss of 70 to 140 grams/day, or 490 to 980 grams/week (1 to 2 lb/week). A deficit of 300 to 500 kcal/day will produce a weight loss of 40 to 70 grams/day, or 280 to 490 grams/week (1/2 to 1 lb/week). A patient may choose a diet of 1,000 to 1,200 kcal for women and 1,200 to 1,500 kcal for men.
VLCDs (less than 800 kcal/day) are not recommended for weight loss therapy because the deficits are too great, and nutritional inadequacies will occur unless VLCDs are supplemented with vitamins and minerals (558). Moreover, clinical trials show that LCDs are just as effective as VLCDs in producing weight loss after 1 year (437).
Although more weight is initially lost with VLCDs, more is usually regained. Further, rapid weight reduction does not allow for gradual acquisition of changes in eating behavior. Successful behavior therapy is the key to long-term maintenance of weight at a reduced level. Finally, patients using VLCDs are at increased risk for developing gallstones.
Successful weight reduction by LCDs is more likely to occur when consideration is given to a patient's food preferences in tailoring a particular diet. Care should be taken to be sure that all of the recommended dietary allowances are met; this may require use of a dietary supplement. Dietary education is a necessary ingredient in achieving adjustment to an LCD. Educational efforts should pay particular attention to the following topics:
The Step I Diet in ATP II provides an appropriate nutrient composition for an LCD. The composition of the diet is presented in the Table below.
Table IV-3: Low-Calorie Step I Diet
Rationale: Many studies suggest that the rate of weight loss diminishes after about 6 months. Shorter periods of dietary therapy usually result in lesser weight reductions. Therapeutic efforts should be directed toward behavior therapy as well as maintaining LCDs (486, 570, 571).
Rationale: Frequent clinical encounters during the initial 6 months of weight reduction appear to facilitate reaching the goals of therapy. During the period of active weight loss, regular visits of at least once per month and preferably more often with a health professional for the purposes of reinforcement, encouragement, and monitoring will facilitate weight reduction. Weekly group meetings can be conducted at a low cost, and can contribute to favorable behavior changes. However, no clinical trials have been specifically designed to test the relative efficacy of different frequencies of encounters with physicians, dietitians, or others on the weight loss team (487).
Rationale: Training of health professionals in techniques of weight reduction, especially in behavior therapy and dietary principles, is expected to facilitate weight reduction. Further, adequate time must be made available to the patient to convey the information necessary, to reinforce behavioral and dietary messages, and to monitor the patient's response. Despite these judgments, none of the studies reviewed were designed to specifically address the type or qualifications of the health professional who implemented the various weight loss approaches. Many of the studies differed in the types of dietary intervention provided. Most programs involved dietitians and nutritionists as primary therapists and used group therapy rather than individual sessions. The length of time spent during each session and the nature of the practitioner/patient interaction tended not to be provided.