Doctor supported weight loss programs are typically more effective than creating a plan of your own, a new study shows. In a report on the study by Johns Hopkins researchers, survey data from 347 obese people who took part in a federally funded weight loss clinical trial showed that, although the overall weight loss rates were modest, those who rated their primary care doctor’s support as particularly helpful lost about twice as much weight as those who didn’t.

63 percent of the study subjects were female with average age of 55 years. The study group had an average BMI of 36.3.

These findings, say the report’s authors, could inform the development of weight loss programs that give primary care physicians a starring role.

Researchers have long recognized that high-quality patient-doctor relationships marked by empathy, good communication, collaboration and trust are linked to better adherence to medication schedules, appointment keeping and other good outcomes, says Wendy L. Bennett, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a primary care physician at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Previous studies also have shown, she says, that obese patients are more likely to report poor physician-patient relationships, with evidence of decreased respect and weight bias from providers.

Almost all of the 347 patient surveys reviewed for the Johns Hopkins study reported high-quality relationships with their physicians, with the overall relationship showing little effect on weight loss.

But the patients who gave their physicians the highest ratings on “helpfulness” during the trial lost an average of 11 pounds, compared to just over 5 pounds for those who gave their physicians the lowest “helpfulness” ratings.

“This trial supports other evidence that providers are very important in their patients' weight loss efforts,” Bennett says.

Many current weight loss programs are commercially run, she adds, and patients often join these programs without their physician’s knowledge.

“Incorporating physicians into future programs might lead patients to more successful weight loss,” she says.

Current National Institutes of Health statistics suggest that more than one-third of adults in the United States are obese.

Wendy L. Bennett, Nae-Yuh Wang, Kimberly A. Gudzune, Arlene T. Dalcin, Sara N. Bleich, Lawrence J. Appel, Jeanne M. Clark Satisfaction with primary care provider involvement is associated with greater weight loss: Results from the practice-based POWER trial Patient Education and Counseling, Vol. 98, Issue 9, p1099–1105

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