N° 14 | October 2016

The Influence of Doctor’s Advice to Lose Weight on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

The U.S. Preventive Task Force recommends that physicians screen all patients for obesity and if needed, provide weight loss advice1. Increasing the proportion of physicians who provide nutrition and weight loss counseling is also a key objective of the United States Healthy People 2020 initiative2. Research on the effect of physician counseling and weight loss advice shows that it positively influences behavior; those that receive weight loss counseling are more likely to eat less fat, decrease their caloric intake, and lose more weight than those who do not receive counseling3,4.
Fruit and vegetables are not only part of a healthy diet, but they can help with maintaining a healthy weight and assist with weight loss as well. A systematic review of longitudinal and experimental studies found that among overweight and obese adults, an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption resulted in a lower amount of body fat5.The exact mechanism is not clear for why fruit and vegetables appear to help with weight maintenance and loss, but it may be due to their high fiber content or from people replacing energy-dense foods with lowercalorie fruits and vegetables5.

1,708 adults interviewed via a household phone survey in 2009-10 in five cities in New Jersey

Eligible participants had at least one child ages 3-18 in the home and made the food purchasing decisions for the household. Participants were asked about their height, weight, eating behaviors, weight loss efforts, and if they had received weight loss advice from their health care provider in the past 12 months. Multivariable negative binomial regression was used to determine the association between weight loss advice, trying to lose weight, and eating behaviors6.

More fruit and salad for study participants who received doctor’s advice to lose weight Of the 1,708 adults, 548 (32%) were obese. Of the 548 obese adults, 48% received doctor’s advice to lose weight and 68% stated they were attempting to lose weight. Seventy six percent of those who received advice to lose weight were attempting to lose weight compared to only 60% of those who did not receive advice.

Study participants who received doctor’s advice to lose weight ate more fruit and salad (p=0.03 and p=0.01, respectively). Participants who stated they were trying to lose weight were more likely to eat more fruit (p=0.004), more vegetables (p=0.01) and more likely to eat fruit and vegetables as snacks (p<0.001). This relationship held even when controlling for receiving doctor’s advice to lose weight6.

Doctor’s Advice to Lose Weight

Physician’s advice to lose weight can help promote healthy eating behaviors as well as increase the likelihood of weight loss attempts. This study and others have found persons who received weight loss advice from their health care provider were more likely to try to lose weight 6,7.

Other studies have also found that when people are trying to lose weight, eating more fruits and vegetables are one of the key behaviors chosen8. Given the role physician’s advice plays in patient’s health, it is imperative that physicians follow national guidelines in providing nutrition and weight loss counseling to the appropriate patients. This can lead to an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, which may not only lead to a reduction in weight but also the risk of chronic disease as well.

  1. LeBlanc E, O’Connor E, Whitlock EP, Patnode C, Kapka T. Screening for and Management of Obesity and Overweight in Adults. In: Quality AfHRa, ed. Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center2011.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2020. http://www.healthypeople.gov.
  3. Dorsey R, Songer T. Lifestyle Behaviors and Physician Advice for Change Among Overweight and Obese Adults With Prediabetes and Diabetes in the United States, 2006. Preventing chronic disease. 2011;8(6).
  4. Pool AC, Kraschnewski JL, Cover LA, et al. The impact of physician weight discussion on weight loss in US adults. Obesity research & clinical practice. 2014;8(2):e131-e139.
  5. Ledoux T, Hingle MD, Baranowski T. Relationship of fruit and vegetable intake with adiposity: a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2011;12(5):e143-e150.
  6. Lorts C, Ohri-Vachaspati P. Eating behaviors among low-income obese adults in the United States: Does health care provider’s advice carry any weight. Prev Med. 2016;87:89-94.
  7. Jackson SE, Wardle J, Johnson F, Finer N, Beeken RJ. The impact of a health professional recommendation on weight loss attempts in overweight and obese British adults: a cross-sectional analysis. BMJ open. 2013;3(11):e003693.
  8. Andreyeva T, Long MW, Henderson KE, Grode GM. Trying to lose weight: diet strategies among Americans with overweight or obesity in 1996 and 2003. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(4):535-542.
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