The top 10 questions for obesity& weight research, now available
Identifying and prioritising areas of need in research is no small feat.
That's why we used a systematic process following the principles of the James Lind Alliance to engage with hundreds of stakeholders to figure out what the top 10 unanswered questions are in obesity and weight-related research.
Now, we are pleased to share both the process and results of this initiative, and we thank everyone who participated.
We followed the general steps set out by the James Lind Alliance.
The first stage involved an online survey to gather research questions. We grouped these together and excluded the questions that had already been answered or which were out of scope.
In a second online survey all participants were asked to rate the remaining questions, these were then put in order of importance. A short list of 30 questions was drawn up.
In 2020, we held a workshop for a group of survey respondents, members of the public and professionals to prioritise the questions further in a structured and collaborative consultation. A list of the top 10 research questions were agreed upon at this workshop.
These results are now shared with researchers, policy makers and the public.
What matters to you?
Maybe it is the experience of people living with obesity and the struggles some face?
Maybe you think we need to know more about preventing people becoming overweight?
We were interested in any question related to body weight and health, such as the effect of genes, metabolism, emotions or the influence of the kind of society we live in.
This survey was not intended to cover research specific to the prevention or treatment of clinical eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa.
Responses to survey 1
In our first survey you told us the questions that are important to you and that you would like to see answered in the field of obesity and weight-related research. We had a fantastic response to survey one and received approximately 1000 questions. A big thank you to everyone who took part.
We grouped duplicate questions, removed questions that had already been answered by research and, where appropriate, rephrased comments to create research questions.
From this, we had 149 remaining unanswered research questions. These were prioritised in a second online survey.
Responses to survey 2
We received over 400 responses to survey 2 and are grateful to everyone who took part. In our second survey you rated the research questions on a scale of 1-10 to tell us how important these questions were to you.
By taking part in these surveys you have helped to focus future research into the areas that matter most to the people involved. Thank you.
The next stage involved a workshop where the questions from surveys 1 and 2 were discussed. A list of the top 10 research questions were jointly agreed upon.
The final stage was a half-day workshop where the questions from surveys 1 and 2 were refined to a final list of 10.
A range of people attended, representing members of the public (including but not limited to people with lived experience of being overweight, researchers, policy-makers, clinicians, and relevant research funders). The workshop was led by external facilitators with no specific knowledge of the topic so that they did not influence the participants choices. Each workshop participant worked in a small group, to come to a final list of priorities through debate and discussion.
Results: The final top 10
We are pleased to share this list of the top 10 unanswered questions that arose from our priority setting project between 2020-2021.
Now, researchers and funders can focus on the questions that matter most. In no particular order, here is the full set of questions:
|What are the most effective methods for weight loss?
|What are the most effective methods for weight maintenance following weight loss?
|What is the most effective and cost-effective mix of population/public health and individual interventions to tackle obesity?
|What is the cost and affordability of a healthy balanced diet? What policy measures could make healthier foods more affordable and improve access to healthier diets?
|Do interventions that target the ‘obesogenic environment’, such as community interventions, urban planning, placement of fast-food outlets or workplace polices, affect population mean weight?
|How do demographic, social and cultural factors (e.g. age, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, environment, psychosocial functioning) affect weight status, weight gain and regional fat distribution? Are tailored weight loss methods more effective than general weight loss methods?
|Do interventions (e.g. nutrition education and physical activity) in pre-school, primary school and secondary school reduce children’s risk of unhealthy weight gain and, if so, how do they act?
|How accurate are existing models of health consequences of excess weight and the impact of weight loss? Which assumptions are critical in determining the long-term effectiveness and cost effectiveness of weight loss interventions?
|What changes in supermarkets or the wider food industry are effective in promoting healthier diets? Does changing labelling and/or packaging on foods affect purchasing, consumption, and body weight?
|What are the drivers of food choice, appetite, and intake? How does the brain control food intake? What are the brain responses to food during weight loss and following weight regain?
The POWER study is funded and supported by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Oxford and Thames Valley (ARC OxTV) and the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
This project was reviewed by, and received ethics clearance through, the University of Oxford Central University Research Ethics Committee (reference number R67215/RE002).