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Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines For Obesity: We Need More Than Diet and Exercise



sharma-obesity-doctor-kidYesterday, saw the release of new Clinical Practice Guidelines from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care to help prevent and manage obesity in adult patients in primary care.

Similarly to the Endocrine Society’s Guidelines for the pharmacological treatment of obesity (see yesterday’s post), the authors use a GRADE system to rank and rate their recommendations.

Key recommendations are summarized as follows:

  • Body mass index should be calculated at primary health care visits to help prevent and manage obesity.
  • For normal weight adults, primary care practitioners should not offer formal structured programs to prevent weight gain.
  • For overweight and obese adults health care practitioners should offer structured programs to change behaviour to help with weight loss, especially to those at high risk of diabetes.
  • Medications should not routinely be offered to help people lose weight.

Virtually all of these recommendations are supported by evidence that is rated between moderate to very low, which essentially leaves wide room for practitioners to either do nothing or whatever they feel is appropriate for a given patient.

The guidelines do not discuss the role of bariatric surgery (arguably the most effective treatment for severe obesity) and make no recommendations for when this should be discussed with patients.

The rather subdued recommendations for the use of medications is understandable, given that the only prescription medication available for obesity in Canada is orlistat (why the authors chose to also discuss metformin, which is not indicated for obesity treatment, is anyone’s guess).

Overall, the reader could easily come away from these guidelines with a sense that obesity management in primary care is rather hopeless, given that behavioural interventions are modestly effective at best (which is probably why the authors recommend that these not be routinely offered to patients at risk of weight gain).

Indeed, it is hard to see how primary care practitioners can get more enthusiastic about obesity management given this rather limited range of treatment options currently available to Canadians.

If there is anything to take away from these guidelines, it is probably the simple fact that we desperately need more effective treatments for Canadians living with obesity.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

The whole document is available here

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