Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease

Can Psychological Science Improve Weight Loss?

Will sensitivity to the psychological aspects of obesity, including lifestyle priorities and motivations, improve the efficacy of long-term effectiveness of weight loss and obesity prevention interventions?

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

A primary focus on principles of psychology may result in significantly improved control of the obesity epidemic. Effective interventions could reduce the risk of diabetes, sleep apnea, and hypertension. This research could also affect clinical practice guidelines for weight loss and obesity treatment.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Psychological science has been successful in developing effective treatments for a number of conditions, including sleep disorders, depressive symptoms, anxiety and phobias. Many of the behavioral principles employed in such interventions (e.g., cognitive restructuring, motivational methods) could be translated for the prevention and treatment of obesity within a reasonable time frame. Additional attention should be directed to the needs of population subgroups in which obesity is most prevalent.

In their Viewpoint article on weight loss intervention research, Pagoto and Appelhans (JAMA, 2013, see attachment) question whether a continued focus on dietary factors in research on weight loss and obesity is warranted. Their commentary raises the importance of attention to the individual psychological characteristics that influence adherence to weight loss interventions rather than dietary composition.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : NHLBI Staff

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Idea No. 101