Most popular weight-management programs are ineffective at helping people lose weight and maintain their lower body mass, a new study reveals. This finding is once again igniting debate about the best means of dieting, which decreases significant health risks from excess pounds. 

According to a new study, just one out of every 124 obese women and one of every 210 obese men will ever trim down to a healthy weight. Those numbers go down to only just one in every 677 women and 1,290 men with severe obesity. 

Kings College London researchers led the study, which involved tracking the weights of more than 129,000 men and nearly 150,000 women, who each had three or more body mass index (BMI) records included in electronic health records. Investigators looked to find the percentage of people who either attained a healthy weight, or lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. About one in every 12 men, as well as 10 percent of women, managed to lose 5 percent or more of their original body weight, the study revealed. Patients who had bariatric surgery were not included in the study.

These findings suggest that doctor's advice to eat right and exercise is not effective at significantly reducing rates of obesity across large populations. This is despite the health benefits which arise from even modest weight lost. 

"Losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight has been shown to have meaningful health benefits and is often recommended as a weight-loss target. These findings highlight how difficult it is for people with obesity to achieve and maintain even small amounts of weight loss," said Dr. Alison Fildes, from the Division of Health and Social Care Research at King's College London. 

Many diet plans promise to help people lose weight quickly and easily. However, real-world results are often disappointing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the healthiest weight loss takes place at a rate of between one and two pounds each week. Losing weight at this speed provides people the best opportunity to keep weight off, the federal heath agency states. 

"So even if the overall goal seems large, see it as a journey rather than just a final destination. You'll learn new eating and physical activity habits that will help you live a healthier lifestyle. These habits may help you maintain your weight loss over time," the CDC reports

In short, researchers concluded, the best way to reduce rates of obesity is through education, teaching the public how to not become obese in the first place. 

"The greatest opportunity for stemming the current obesity epidemic is in wider-reaching public health policies to prevent obesity in the population," Martin Gulliford of KCL stated in a university press release. 

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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