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  health > diet & fitness > story pageAIDSAgingAlternative MedicineCancerChildrenDiet & FitnessMenWomen

Many Americans don't follow recommended weight-loss guidelines

graphic

October 12, 1999
Web posted at: 4:05 p.m. EDT (2005 GMT)

(CNN) -- Two-thirds of all Americans are either trying to lose weight or maintain their weight, but few are following national health recommendations by eating a reduced-calorie diet and exercising at least 150 minutes a week, according to a study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

"Two-thirds of the U.S. population said they were either trying to lose weight or maintain their weight and this makes weight control one of the most prevalent health behaviors in the United States," said study leader Dr. Mary Serdula of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, which looked at 107,804 men and women over 18, found only 21.5 percent of men and 19.4 percent of women used the recommended combination of eating fewer calories and exercising 150 minutes per week when trying to lose weight.

Fat vs. calories

Researchers also found people were more likely to reduce fat than calories in their diet. Of those surveyed 34.9 percent of men and 40 percent of women said they were only cutting down on fat intake.

"Among persons trying to lose weight, reduction of fat intake is not an effective strategy unless calories are also reduced," the authors wrote.

Exercising as part of a weight-loss program was found least common among the obese, the least educated and the oldest. Overall, only 42.3 percent of men and 36.8 percent of women were doing the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

The authors suggested many factors including cars, television and easy access to fast food, may contribute to people's lack of physical activity and the increase in obesity in the U.S.

"Thus reversing the trend in obesity will require change at the societal and environmental as well as at the individual level," they concluded. "At the individual level, there is a need for health care professionals to develop expertise in counseling patients to prevent weight gain or lose weight through lower total caloric consumption and increased physical activity."

Medical Correspondent Holly Firfer contributed to this story.



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