By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
April 20, 2015 -- A one-size-fits-all approach to treating obesity doesn't work because obese people fall into one of six groups, a study says.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. say strategies tailored to the six groups would be a better use of billions spent each year on weight problems.
The researchers looked at data from the Yorkshire Health Study, which included 4,144 obese people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.
Defining Types of Obesity
They found that obese people could be divided into:
- Young males who were heavy drinkers
- Middle-aged people who were unhappy and anxious
- Older people who were happy despite having health conditions
- Younger healthy females
- Older, affluent healthy adults
- People with very poor health
Mark Green, who led the research, says health policy makers ought to recognize differences in people before trying to help them lose weight.
Targeting the 6 Groups
"Policies designed to tackle obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles often target individuals just because they are obese," Green says in a statement. "But a focus on just the group as a whole is not very efficient. We are all different and different health promotion approaches work for different people.
"Our research showed that those in the groups that we identified are likely to need very different services, and will respond very differently to different health promotion policies."
Green says the researchers hope doctors will keep these six groups in mind when offering advice to patients.
Help With Obesity
The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, suggests that messages about cutting back on alcohol could help tackle obesity in young adults.
For middle-aged people who are unhappy and anxious, exercise and counseling could help.
Young healthy females and older, affluent people may not need help beyond basic weight loss.
Those in poor health may need to set modest goals since an exercise program might not be a realistic option.
More than one-third of U.S. adults, or 78.6 million people, are considered to be obese, according to the CDC.
For most adults, a BMI of 30 to 39.9 is considered obese. Anyone with a BMI of 40 or more is considered severely obese.
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