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Obesity Medication and the Role of Lifestyle Interventions Delivered by RDNs

Published February 22, 2024

Incorporating nutrition and lifestyle interventions is imperative in the comprehensive management of obesity across the continuum of care. Individuals taking obesity medication must have access to evidence-based lifestyle interventions within medical nutrition therapy services delivered by registered dietitian nutritionists to optimize health outcomes and to address the multifaceted aspects of obesity.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges pharmaceutical manufacturers of obesity medications, along with obesity medicine providers and other health care practitioners specializing in obesity management, to enhance the efficacy and successful use of these medications by including, alongside the prescription, a referral for medical nutrition therapy (MNT) delivered by a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). The Academy strongly supports a collaborative, interprofessional approach among all health care providers involved in the management of people utilizing obesity medications and emphasizes the importance of partnering with RDNs to optimize outcomes.

  • Registered dietitian nutritionists are equipped with the knowledge and skills to address all phases of obesity care with proven lifestyle interventions.
  • Personalized nutrition care from a RDN is a vital part of the comprehensive obesity management, whether the approach includes lifestyle intervention, obesity medication, metabolic and bariatric surgery, or a combination of approaches to lose weight or maintain weight loss.
  • Approved use of obesity medications coupled with lifestyle interventions must prioritize and ensure user safety and success. Specifically, people taking obesity medications eat less, so a healthful eating plan is important to ensure adequate intake of the essential nutrients and to promote the loss of excess fat versus lean body mass.
  • RDNs can help assess and mitigate common side effects from obesity medications, such as recognizing signs of dehydration, gastrointestinal symptoms, malnutrition, loss of lean muscle, disordered eating patterns or other potential unintended consequences.
  • Researchers should closely monitor the obesity/malnutrition paradox among people living with overweight or obesity and consider social determinants of health, including access to these medications and lifestyle interventions delivered by an RDN.
  • Policy changes are necessary to ensure individuals have access to both lifestyle interventions and obesity medications that have the potential to improve the health of many people in the U.S. and are essential to reduce health inequity and disparity. While there is an abundance of data on the effectiveness of MNT delivered by a RDN, there remains a large gap in access to this care, which could be reduced if RDN services were covered by Medicare as well as third-party payers.

Coming this spring: Resources in development include an Academy report on obesity medication and the role of lifestyle interventions delivered by RDNs, public policy implications and interprofessional opportunities, as well as informational webinars on the latest science and impact on advancing nutrition and dietetics practice.

Webinar Series

Date: April 18
Title: Pathophysiology of Obesity and Treatment Using New Anti-Obesity Medications
View Webinar Recording | Webinar Handout

Date: May 15
Title: The Role of the RDN to Optimize Short- and Long-term Use of Anti-Obesity Medications
Time: noon-1:30 p.m. (Central time)
View Webinar Recording | Webinar Handout

Date: June 4
Title: Anti-Obesity Medications: An Interdisciplinary Panel Discusses Cases
Time: noon-1:30 p.m. (Central time)
View Webinar Recording | Webinar Handout

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