(HealthDay News) – A behavioral intervention to improve physical activity and diet in obese patients is more effective at slimming the waistlines of men than women, according to a study published online Feb. 27 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

With the goal of reducing obesity, Robert Ross, PhD, of Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and colleagues randomly assigned sedentary, obese patients to a two-year behaviorally-based physical activity and diet program (249 subjects) or to usual care (241). Physicians provided advice to the usual care group about lifestyle as a strategy for obesity reduction. The behavioral intervention involved individual counseling from health educators to promote physical activity together with a healthful diet.

The researchers found that, of the 396 participants who completed the trial, waist circumference (WC) changed significantly within the intervention group compared to the usual care participants, and this change was sustained at 24 months (−0.9 vs. 0.2 cm; P=0.05). In men, the mean reduction in WC at 24 months was significantly greater in the behavioral intervention group (− 1.6 vs. 0.1 cm; P=0.049). In women, the behavioral intervention was associated with differences in WC when compared at six and 12 months (P≤0.01) but not at 24 months (P=0.1).

“Behavioral intervention in clinical settings is associated with modest reductions in WC during a two-year study in obese patients,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the food, health, and pharmaceutical industries.

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