Study: Medical Weight Management May Prevent Pandemic-induced Weight Gain

ObesityWeek 2021

Medical weight management was shown to have protective effects against challenges imposed by COVID-19-induced social distancing/stay-at-home policies, according to new research presented at ObesityWeek 2021.

Multiple studies have illustrated pandemic-related weight gain in the general population, however, the impact of social distancing, stay-at-home mandates, and COVID-19 illness on individuals with overweight or obesity who are medically managed for their weight remains unclear.

To help fill this gap in research, investigators identified via electronic health record data over 4800 adults seen at a large urban weight management practice between May 2019 and May 2020. The patients were invited to anonymously complete an electronic survey between February 23, 2021 and March 23, 2021 that included questions about demographics, weight, eating and lifestyle behaviors, and use of antiobesity medications.

Of the 1006 adults (77% women, 83.5% White) who responded to the survey, 13% had a normal body mass index (BMI), 34% had overweight, and 53% had obesity, according to the study abstract.

The median BMI at the start of the pandemic was 30.4 kg/m2. Antiobesity pharmacotherapy was common (81%) among respondents and 28.9% reported an increase in their medication regimen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to researchers, the median weight change for patients taking antiobesity pharmacotherapy was -1 lbs (-0.454%) compared to +5 lbs (+2.33%) for those not taking it (p<.001). Among all respondents, 21% gained ≥5% weight, 25% lost ≥5% weight, and 54% experienced <5% change in weight.

Participants reported eating more home-cooked meals and being much less physically active compared to pre-pandemic conditions, according to the abstract. Approximately 41% of participants reported consuming less alcohol compared to before the pandemic.

Increases in unhealthy food choices, snacking, and comfort eating were reported by 40% of adults with normal BMI, 43% of those with overweight, and 49% of those with obesity, according to the abstract.

“The majority of patients medically managed for their weight at this academic weight management center remained relatively weight stable despite challenges imposed by social distancing/stay-at-home policies. In contrast to multiple studies illustrating pandemic-related weight gain, this study highlights the protective effect of medical weight management,” concluded investigators.

Reference: Crowley WJ, Chan KM, Barenbaum SR, et al. Medical weight management prevents COVID-19 pandemic-related weight gain. Poster (194) presented at: ObesityWeek 2021; held online November 1-5, 2021.