A recent report from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) shows that behavioral counseling that promotes a healthy diet and physical activity can be beneficial for overweight or obese adults with a risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). A news report from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) notes that the USPSTF cited “adequate evidence” that behavioral interventions “have a moderate net benefit” for this group, with a the risk of potential harm “small to none.” The group reviewed 74 clinical trials, most of which studied combined counseling on diet and activity through multiple contacts over 9 to 12 months.
The APTA news release notes that the interventions were not focused specifically on weight loss and trials conducted exclusively with individuals who have diabetes were excluded. The USPSTF review of intermediate and longer-term health outcomes found that behavioral counseling resulted in “small but important changes in health behavior outcomes and selected clinical outcomes after 12 to 24 months.” The clinical outcomes included in decreased in blood pressure, fasting glucose levels, weight, and total and LDL cholesterol, according to APTA.
The APTA news release indicates that the interventions studied mostly included educational and supportive components with a focus on behavior change through invidualized plans. The counseling was performed by professionals that included physical therapists or exercise professionals, health educators, dietitians or nutritionists, and psychologists. According to the USPSTF report, the interventions could also be applied to a large portion of the US population, as nearly half of all Americans have at least 1 CVD risk factor. In addition, 70% of Americans are overweight or obese.
The task force does note, however, that more research is needed on the effectiveness of less intensive counseling and the ways the interventions affect outcomes and behavior after 2 to 3 years.