All adults should be screened for obesity, and those found to be obese should be offered at least 12 weeks of intensive counseling about lifestyle changes, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said in a statement published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The recommendation is likely to accelerate insurance companies’ coverage of weight loss programs for obese adults – those with a body mass index (a ratio of height to weight) of 30 or higher, experts said.
The Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of experts that evaluates evidence supporting preventive medical services, first endorsed obesity screening in 2003. What’s new is its finding that weight loss programs are effective if they last at least three months and include multiple strategies such as counseling about behavior change, nutrition and physical activity.
“If anything, the recommendations have been strengthened,” said Dr. David Grossman, a spokesman for the task force and senior investigator for preventive care at Group Health Research Institute.
Previously, the task force didn’t specify characteristics of programs that have a positive impact in controlling obesity.