Preventing Obesity in Midlife Women: A Systematic Review for the Women's Preventive Services Initiative

Amy G. Cantor, Heidi D. Nelson, Miranda Pappas, Chandler Atchison

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Despite high prevalence rates of obesity in the United States, no clinical guidelines exist for obesity prevention in midlife women who commonly experience weight gain. Purpose: To evaluate evidence on the effectiveness and harms of behavioral interventions to reduce weight gain and improve health outcomes for women aged 40 to 60 years without obesity. Data Sources: English-language searches of Ovid MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (inception to 26 October 2021); (October 2021); and reference lists of studies and reviews. Study Selection: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) enrolling predominantly midlife women comparing behavioral interventions to prevent weight gain with control groups and reporting health outcomes and potential harms. Data Extraction: Dual extraction and quality assessment of individual studies. Data Synthesis: Seven RCTs in 12 publications (n = 51 638) were included. Four RCTs showed statistically significant favorable differences in weight change for counseling interventions versus control groups (mean difference of weight change, - 0.87 to -2.5 kg), whereas 1 trial of counseling and 2 trials of exercise showed no differences; 1 of 2 RCTs reported improved quality-of-life measures. Interventions did not increase measures of depression or stress in 1 trial; self-reported falls (37% vs. 29%; P < 0.001) and injuries (19% vs. 14%; P= 0.03) were higher with exercise counseling in 1 trial. Limitation: Trials were generally small, heterogeneous, and lacked data on harms, long-term health outcomes, and specific patient populations. Conclusion: Counseling interventions to prevent weight gain in women during midlife may result in modest differences in weight change without causing important harms. More research is needed to determine optimal content, frequency, length, and number of sessions required and should include additional patient populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1275-1284
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of internal medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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