Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults--Executive Summary

Evidence-Based Guidelines

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.

* 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)

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