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Duke doctors encourage overweight patients to maintain weight

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DURHAM, N.C. -

Doctors at Duke University are changing their approach with overweight patients. Instead of encouraging them to lose, they are encouraging their patients to maintain their weight.

Of all Americans, African American women are at the highest risk for obesity. Despite this, they're not as likely as other overweight people to develop complications like heart disease and diabetes; as long as they do not become morbidly obese.

Now doctors at Duke are encourage overweight black women to maintain their weight and not gain.

"Most of the health risks associated with obesity occur at higher levels of obesity. So if a woman can maintain her weight, and stay at a lower level of obesity, many of those later life health risks will be offset and their risk will be reduced," said Dr. Gary Bennett, Director of the Duke University Obesity Prevention Program.

In a new study, researchers divided nearly 200 overweight black women into two groups. One group was enrolled into Duke's Shape program, where they are given a health coach and a gym membership. The second group met with a doctor to discuss weight loss.

Tonia Johnson was in the Shape program.

"Instead of eating Cheetos and a Pepsi, at work I would buy my vegetable chips and try to drink water,' said Johnson.

Doctors explain that maintain your weight is easier than trying to lose it. You only need to cut 100 to 200 calories a day.

"So that's usually for most people not consuming a bottle of soda or not having a few extra cookies after dinner," Bennett said.

The women in the other group gained about 11 pounds over three years, while a majority of those in the Shape program stayed steady on the scale and sometimes even lost weight.

"I know I lost at least 10 pounds just doing that, and I didn't do anything extra special," Johnson said.

Though this study focused on obese or overweight African American women, researchers say preventing weight gain is important to anyone who is obese.

Researchers are planning additional studies to learn whether maintaining weight can lead to a lower risk for stroke and heart attack.

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