Many obese and overweight adults cannot achieve successful weight loss, study finds

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Weight management is a significant concern for many adults, particularly those dealing with overweight and obesity.

A recent study, published in JAMA Network Open, provides valuable insights into the likelihood of individuals with excess weight achieving meaningful weight loss.

The study, led by Lyudmyla Kompaniyets, Ph.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, analyzed electronic medical records of 18 million U.S. patients spanning from 2009 to 2022. The key findings are as follows:

Low Success Rate: The research revealed that only one in 10 adults with overweight or obesity managed to lose 5 percent or more of their weight annually.

BMI Impact: The likelihood of achieving significant weight loss was influenced by the initial body mass index (BMI). Those with a higher starting BMI had a greater chance of success.

Specifically, one in 12 people with initial overweight managed this feat, increasing to one in 6 for those with an initial BMI of 45 or above.

Gender and Ethnic Differences

The study also unveiled differences based on gender and ethnicity:

Gender: Women generally had a higher success rate in achieving both significant weight loss and reducing BMI to a healthy range compared to men.

Ethnicity: Among all ethnic groups, White women had the highest likelihood of achieving these outcomes.

Over the longer term, spanning three to 14 years, the study found that about one-third of those initially overweight and 41.8 percent of those initially obese managed to shed 5 percent or more of their weight.

However, in terms of achieving a healthy BMI, only 23.2 percent of the overweight group and just 2 percent of the obese group were successful.

Recommendations from the Study

Given these findings, the study’s authors emphasize the need for tailored approaches in medical practice and public health campaigns.

They highlight the importance of interventions designed to help individuals with excess weight not only achieve but also maintain significant weight loss.

These insights underscore the challenges many individuals face in managing their weight and the need for multifaceted strategies to address this prevalent health issue.


The study’s findings shed light on the low success rate in annual weight loss among adults with overweight or obesity. The impact of initial BMI, gender, and ethnicity on weight loss outcomes underscores the complexity of weight management.

Tailored interventions and continued research are crucial to addressing the challenges associated with weight loss and improving the health of individuals affected by excess weight.

If you care about weight loss, please read studies about the keto diet for weight loss: Pros and cons, and how to drink water to lose weight.

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