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Clinical Trials for Weight Loss

By Angela Ogunjimi ; Updated July 18, 2017

Clinical trials offer you an opportunity to help scientists find solutions to pressing public health challenges. Obesity and weight control are important areas of research because they take a significant economic toll in terms of health care costs and lost productivity. The federal government, along with private foundations and pharmaceutical companies, has poured millions into investigating what works in weight management. From dietary and physical activity interventions to medications and bariatric surgery, clinical trials are ongoing and shedding new light on how you can safely and effectively lose weight and reduce your risk of chronic disease. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, visit ClinicalTrials.gov to get a listing of currently recruiting trials being conducted in the United States and abroad.

Adult Weight Loss

The Washington University School of Medicine verified in February 2011 that it was to begin the “Progressive Weight Loss and Metabolic Health” clinical trial for obese, nondiabetic adults ages 21 to 65. The study is to see whether weight loss reduces body fat and changes sugar metabolism, gut flora and the way the brain functions. It’s expected to run through to March 2013.

Overweight men and women in Phoenix, Arizona, ages 18 to 55, may want to investigate “The Effects of Exenatide (Byetta) on Energy Expenditure and Weight Loss in Non-Diabetic Obese Subjects.” Conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the trial will determine whether a drug that causes weight loss in diabetics will work for people who are not diabetic. It’s recruiting and expected to run until February 2013.

Starting approximately in May 2011 until March 2015, the University of Nebraska will run the “Web-Based Weight Loss & Weight Maintenance Intervention for Older Rural Women.” The study is to evaluate an Internet delivery strategy to address weight loss and maintenance among rural midlife and older women.

Children, Youth and Young Adults

Overweight children ages 7 to 11 might be eligible to participate in the COMPASS, or “Childhood Obesity Treatment: A Maintenance Approach.” With participating sites in Florida, New York, Missouri and Washington state, enrolled children will receive one of three interventions designed to get kids moving and playing and teach families skills for weight maintenance. The major coordinating centers include Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute.

The University of California, San Diego unveiled plans in January 2011 to run the “SMART: A Social and Mobile Weight Control Program for Young Adults” trial. It’s designed to create an intervention that prevents weight gain in at-risk young adults and promote weight loss in overweight and obese young adults. The intervention will include the use of Web, mobile phone and social media technologies in addition to traditional diet and physical activity components. It’s expected to run until May 2014.

Bariatric Surgery

Two major clinical trials, LABS and Teen-LABS, are studying the effects of bariatric surgery in adults and teenagers. LABS stands for longitudinal assessment of bariatric surgery. Though a consortium of clinical centers, the trials seek to substantially reduce the weight of participants and maintain weight loss for the long term. Both studies also seek to determine the impact of surgery on well-being and identify the kinds of patients who are most responsive to the operation. Teen-LABS’ major coordinator is the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The adult trial is currently in a phase of investigating the long-term effects of surgery of already enrolled participants. Its major coordinating center is the University of Pittsburgh.

Summa Health System at Akron City Hospital is sponsoring the trial “Bariatric Surgery and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (BAROSA)” for obese women ages 20 to 85 to demonstrate the improvements created by weight-loss surgery and treatment of sleep apnea.

Funding Opportunities

Keep an eye on funding opportunities, many of which are offered by government and private organizations to provide money for future clinical trials. They give you a clue as to what to expect in the near term. For example, the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research, regularly have weight-loss related funding announcements.

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