Health, not weight loss, focused programmes versus conventional weight loss programmes for cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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Obesity is a cardiovascular disease risk factor. Conventional weight-loss (CWL) programmes focus on weight-loss, however ‘health, not weight-loss, focused’ (HNWL) programmes concentrate on improved health and well-being, irrespective of weight-loss. What are the differences in CVD risk outcomes between these programmes?

To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to compare the effects of HNWL with CWL programmes on cardiovascular disease risk factors.
We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, ASSIA, clinical trial registers, commercial websites and reference lists for randomised controlled trials comparing the two programmes. (Initially searched up to August 2015 and searched updated to 5 April 2019). We used the Mantel-Haneszel fixed-effect model to pool results. Sub-group and sensitivity analyses that accounted for variations in length of follow-up, enhanced programmes and risk of bias dealt with heterogeneity.

Eight randomised controlled trials of 20,242 potential studies were included. Improvements in total cholesterol-HDL ratio (mean difference: -0.21mmol/L, 95% confidence interval [-3.91, 3.50]) and weight loss (-0.28kg [-2.00, 1.44]) favoured HNWL compared to CWL programmes in the long term (53-104 week follow-up), whereas improvements in systolic (-1.14 mmHg, [-5.84, 3.56]) and diastolic (-0.15 mmHg, [-3.64, 3.34]) blood pressure favoured CWL programmes. These differences did not reach statistical significance.

Statistically significant improvements in body satisfaction (-4.30 [-8.32, -0.28]) and restrained eating behaviour (-4.30 [-6.77, -1.83]) favoured HNWL over CWL programmes.

We found no long-term significant differences in improved CVD risk factors, however body satisfaction and restrained eating behaviour improved more with HNWL compared to CWL programmes. Yet firm conclusions cannot be drawn from small studies with high losses to follow-up and data sometimes arising from a single small study.
Original languageEnglish
Article number200
Number of pages18
JournalSystematic Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s). 2019 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver
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  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Disordered eating behaviour
  • Intuitive eating
  • Meta-analysis
  • Non-diet
  • Obesity
  • Systematic review
  • Weight loss
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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