Doctors need to take an aggressive lead in fighting obesity, asking patients about their weight and recommending exercise -- even if they think patients will ignore it, a team of experts said on Thursday.
Former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona and the STOP Obesity Alliance said exercise is key to fighting obesity, along with changes in the way society approaches obese people and the way doctors inform patients about their weight.
Obesity is the second leading cause of death in the United States -- a third of U.S. adults are obese and another third are overweight, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
“We are asking policy makers and other decision makers to use the science to make informed decisions that will help reduce the burden of obesity on our nation," Carmona said in a webcast.
The Obesity Alliance recommended better ways to judge whether weight-loss programs work, with a minimum goal of sustained weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of a person’s current weight. The group also recommended training doctors and other health care providers to offer patients information on proper weight-loss methods, prescriptions for physical activity, and referrals to weight-loss specialists.
“There is overwhelming evidence that physical inactivity is a public health burden. We no longer can afford for it to be an obstacle – we have to integrate physical activity into our health care system,” said Adrian Hutber, vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine and member of the alliance.
“Physicians have a responsibility to inform patients of the benefits of physical activity and the risks of inactivity even if they don’t follow it.”
There was no mention of diet's role in fighting obesity. President Obama's Task Force on Childhood Obesity, headed by first lady Michelle Obama, is promoting a healthier diet along with exercise to help children maintain a healthy weight. Many local jurisdictions also require publication of fat and calorie counts on certain restaurant menus.