Fewer men join weight-loss programs than women but are more likely to stick with them, analysis of international obesity studies has found.
The report found that middle-aged men are motivated to lose weight once they perceive they have a health problem they want to tackle.
They welcome the moral support of other men in weight-loss programs and also prefer the use of simple “business-like” language and humour used sensitively.
Researchers from the universities of Aberdeen, Bournemouth and Stirling analysed evidence from around the world involving more than 15,000 men gathered from weight loss trials and studies.
They have suggested that if weight-loss programs were specifically designed for men they might be more effective at helping them lose weight, which could reduce the risk of health problems like type 2 diabetes.
Chief investigator Professor Alison Avenell, a clinician from the Health Services Research Unit at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Men are less likely to see their weight as a problem and engage with weight-loss services, even though obesity increases the risk of many serious illnesses such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis.
“This could be because dieting and weight-loss programs are perceived as being feminine activities.
“We looked at the outcomes of many previous studies which included men, as well as interviews with men, in order to find out more about how to design services and inform health policy,” Prof Avenell said.
“While more research is needed into the effectiveness of new approaches to engage men with weight loss, our findings suggest that men should be offered the opportunity to attend weight-loss programs that are different to programs which are mainly attended by women.”
With seven in 10 men too fat, according to the 188-country report, the team investigated what would make services more appealing for men.
They found that obesity interventions in sports clubs, such as football clubs, have been very effective, with low dropout rates and very positive responses.
As well as considering health, men were motivated to lose weight to improve their personal appearance without looking too thin.
The researchers found that cutting calories together with exercise and following advice on changing behaviour are the best way for obese men to shed pounds.
The study also suggests that obese men who eat less lose more weight than those who take more exercise but do not eat less.
Dr Flora Douglas, from the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, said: “Men prefer more factual information on how to lose weight and more emphasis on physical activity in weight-loss programs.
“Group-based programs showed benefits by facilitating support for men with similar health problems and some individual tailoring of advice helped men.
“Programs which were situated in a sporting venue, where participants had a strong sense of affiliation, showed low drop-out rates and high satisfaction.”
Australia and New Zealand are ranked the 30th and 23rd most overweight countries in the world, not far behind the US, which is ranked 20th.