Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults--Executive Summary
To evaluate published information and to determine the most appropriate treatment strategies that would constitute evidence-based clinical guidelines on overweight and obesity for physicians and associated health professionals in clinical practice, health care policy makers, and clinical investigators, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Obesity Education Initiative in cooperation with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases convened the Expert Panel on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults in May 1995. The guidelines are based on a systematic review of the published scientific literature found in MEDLINE from January 1980 to September 1997 of topics identified by the panel as key to extrapolating the data related to the obesity evidence model. Evidence from approximately 394 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was considered by the panel.
The panel is comprised of 24 members, 8 ex-officio members, and a methodologist consultant. Areas of expertise contributed to by panel members included primary care, epidemiology, clinical nutrition, exercise physiology, psychology, physiology, and pulmonary disease. There were four meetings of the full panel and two additional meetings of the executive committee comprised of the panel chair and four panel members.
The San Antonio Cochrane Center assisted the panel in the literature abstraction and in organizing the data into appropriate evidence tables. The center pretested and used a standardized 25-page form or "Critical Review Status Sheet" for the literature abstraction. Ultimately, 236 RCT articles were abstracted and the data were then compiled into individual evidence tables developed for each RCT. The data from these RCTs served as the basis for many of the recommendations contained in the guidelines.
The panel determined the criteria for deciding on the appropriateness of an article. At a minimum, studies had to have a time frame from start to finish of at least 4 months. The only exceptions were a few 3-month studies related to dietary therapy and pharmacotherapy. To consider the question of long-term maintenance, studies with outcome data provided at approximately 1 year or longer were examined. Excluded were studies in which self-reported weights by subjects were the only indicators used to measure weight loss. No exclusions of studies were made by study size. The panel weighed the evidence based on a thorough examination of the threshold or magnitude of the treatment effect. Each evidence statement (other than those with no available evidence) and each recommendation is categorized by a level of evidence which ranges from A to D. Table ES-1 summarizes the categories of evidence by their source and provides a definition for each category.
- Who is at Risk? All overweight and obese adults (age 18 years of age or older) with a BMI of >=25 are considered at risk. Individuals with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, while individuals with a BMI >=30 are considered obese. Treatment of overweight is recommended only when patients have two or more risk factors or a high waist circumference. It should focus on altering dietary and physical activity patterns to prevent development of obesity and to produce moderate weight loss. Treatment of obesity should focus on producing substantial weight loss over a prolonged period. The presence of comorbidities in overweight and obese patients should be considered when deciding on treatment options.
- Why Treat Overweight and Obesity? Obesity is clearly associated with increased morbidity and mortality. There is strong evidence that weight loss in overweight and obese individuals reduces risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Strong evidence exists that weight loss reduces blood pressure in both overweight hypertensive and nonhypertensive individuals; reduces serum triglycerides and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol; and generally produces some reduction in total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol. Weight loss reduces blood glucose levels in overweight and obese persons with and without diabetes; and weight loss also reduces blood glucose levels and HbAlc in some patients with type 2 diabetes. Although there have been no prospective trials to show changes in mortality with weight loss in obese patients, reductions in risk factors would suggest that development of type 2 diabetes and CVD would be reduced with weight loss.
- What Treatments Are Effective? A variety of effective options exist for the management of overweight and obese patients, including dietary therapy approaches such as low-calorie diets and lower-fat diets; altering physical activity patterns; behavior therapy techniques; pharmacotherapy*; surgery; and combinations of these techniques.
* As of September 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested the voluntary withdrawal from the market of dexfenfluramine and fenfluramine due to a reported association between valvular heart disease and the use of dexfenfluramine or fenfluramine alone or combined with phentermine. The use of these drugs for weight reduction, therefore, is not recommended in this report. Sibutramine is approved by FDA for long-term use. It has limited but definite effects on weight loss and can facilitate weight loss maintenance (Note: FDA approval for orlistat is pending a resolution of labeling issues and results of Phase III trials)