Background: Obesity is a growing health problem worldwide. It is associated with serious medical and psychosocial comorbidities that increase the risk of mortality. However, strong evidence confirms lifestyle-modification programs as the cornerstone treatment for excess weight and obesity. The aim of this systematic review was to assess the effectiveness of the lifestyle-modification programs for weight management delivered in Arabic-speaking countries.
Methods: The PubMed database was searched, and studies conducted in humans were identified and screened as per the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Data were collated using meta-analysis and a narrative approach.
Results: Of the 1057 articles retrieved, six studies, conducted in four Arab countries, comprising a total of 444 adolescent and adult participants of both genders with overweight and obesity, met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed. Most studies that assessed weight loss at 6-month follow-up showed no significant reduction in body weight. Meta-analysis confirmed that the lifestyle-modification programs delivered were no more effective than other treatments. Only one article reported significant weight-loss maintenance after 12 months of follow-up. However this was a prospective non-controlled study in which the weight loss maintained (=4%) did not conform to the standard for clinical significance (>10%).
Conclusion: Lifestyle-modification programs for weight management delivered in Arabic-speaking countries seem lacking in effectiveness due to methodological weaknesses in program adaptation, a lack of expert clinical supervision before and during implementation, and the presence of barriers to lifestyle modification, especially for women. Future studies should bear these features in mind.