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Louisiana patients give promising results for weight loss study

Half of the patients, like Alice, got regular one-on-one counseling, and nutrition education from a health coach. She learned better food choices and portion control

NEW ORLEANS — A new weight loss study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has its roots in Louisiana. 

And doctors are hoping that the many pounds lost by local men and women in the study, could one day lead to weight loss help right in your doctor's office.

Alice Price struggled with losing weight for years.

“Once I had my kids I gained, I gained, and it was hard by me not wanting to exercise so much,” said Alice Price, 68.

 But today she is around 50 pounds lighter, and has kept it off for three and a half years. Alice's doctor at Tulane signed her up for PROPEL. It was a study, for low income adults, designed by researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.  This study came to you at your primary care doctor's clinic. 

“This is one of the first studies that took patients and said, ‘Hey, we're going to meet you at the clinic, and this proved that you can do this in a clinic setting,” said Dr. Jonathan Gugel, an Internal Medicine physician at Tulane who ran one of the arms of the study in his office.

Half of the patients, like Alice, got regular one-on-one counseling, and nutrition education from a health coach. She learned better food choices and portion control.

“She really talked to you, made you feel comfortable. And she gave me a plate and it has sections on it and you just put what you have to put in those sections,” Price described.

“Most primary care doctors don't have the time to invest in the real detail conversations you need to help people change their behavior,” explained Dr. Gugel.

People who just got the usual advice from their doctors, such as eat less sugar, and more healthful food, did not lose much weight. 

“We're spending way too much money dealing with the ramifications of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers are associated with obesity. Certainly knee arthritis,” said Dr. Gugel.  

“I feel great. I could walk better,” Price is excited to admit.

Her high blood pressure and cholesterol are better controlled now. Doctors are hoping this proof could one day lead to health insurance covering this type of intervention, showing that an ounce of prevention is literally worth many pounds of cure.

And losing weight also has health benefits during the pandemic. Doctors are learning that obesity contributes to more deaths, not only from COVID-19, but the flu as well.

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