In Brief

Share Your Weight Loss Secrets

Tufts researchers are looking for participants in the International Weight Control Registry, which they hope will lead to insights into weight loss worldwide
a salad at a table
“There is so much controversy about obesity that having people with a range of perspectives working together is a very strong way to advance the field,” said Susan Roberts. Photo: Ingimage
December 14, 2018

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Losing weight and keeping it off is no easy feat—especially during the holiday season. It is an accomplishment worth sharing, and now people all over the world will have their chance.

Researchers at Tufts University and the University of Alabama are working together to launch the first ever database of weight loss best practices gleaned from participants around the world. The International Weight Control Registry (IWCR) will collect information from people who have maintained a weight loss of at least 5 percent of their body weight at one or more points during their adult life.

The IWCR is modeled after the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which enrolled more than 10,000 Americans and led to crucial insights into successful weight loss, informing national health recommendations and weight-loss treatment guidelines.

Like that registry, the IWCR will use detailed lifestyle questionnaires and annual follow-up surveys, this time with the aim of understanding how people in America and the rest of the world lose weight and keep it off under different cultural, social, agricultural, and economic conditions—knowledge that is especially important as obesity rates rise around the world.

Online surveys will ask participants about their diet, activity levels, culture, and general thoughts about food. The answers, said cofounder Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, will help people everywhere “because what is working well in different cultures can provide inspiration for how to make weight loss work better in other places.”

Roberts cofounded the registry with James Hill, chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in collaboration with the University of Sydney. With the help of scientists from around the world and seed support from Gelesis, a Boston biotechnology company, they hope the registry will reveal new paths for future studies.

Although longtime colleagues, Roberts and Hill have differing views on weight loss strategies. Hill, cofounder of the NWCR and of popular, activity-based weight-loss programs like America on the Move, advises people to count calories and increase their physical activity. Roberts suggests a diet modification approach focused on training yourself to prefer healthier foods and optimize meal macronutrients and size.

Founding this registry together helps ensure that important questions are asked in an unbiased manner, Roberts said. “There is so much controversy about obesity,” she said, “that having people with a range of perspectives working together is a very strong way to advance the field.”

“This is the beginning of what we hope will be a truly global project,” said Roberts, noting that it relies on people all over the globe contributing their success stories.

To share your story and enroll in the International Weight Control Registry to help researchers identify the most effective weight loss strategies, visit https://my.studytrax.com/p/iwcr/portal/index#/accounts/enroll.

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