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Weight Loss Significantly Improves Sexual Quality of Life

Weight Loss Significantly Improves Sexual Quality of Life
Weight Loss Significantly Improves Sexual Quality of Life


Duke Health News Duke Health News

DURHAM, N.C. - Women and men who lose only 10 percent of their total body weight report significant improvements in their sexual quality of life, found Duke University Medical Center researchers.

In the Duke study, the prevalence of obese people who reported difficulty at least sometimes in six different sexual quality of life aspects ranged from 19 to 67 percent. Women were more likely to report problems than men – women were twice as likely to say they did not want to be seen undressed and five times more likely to report not enjoying sexual activity at the start of the study.

However, on average, difficulties in all six areas of sexual quality of life investigated during the study showed improvement with weight loss. The percentage of women reporting difficulty at least sometimes dropped by as much as 50 percenton several aspects of sexual quality of life with weight loss. The improvement appeared to reach a maximum with a weight loss of approximately 11 percent, the researchers said.

The results were presented Oct. 17, 2005, at The NorthAmerican Association for the Study of Obesity annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C. Funding was provided by the Duke Diet & FitnessCenter, part of Duke Medical Center.

Quality of life improvements can help inspire people to meet their weight loss goals, said lead author Martin Binks, Ph.D.,a clinical psychologist and director of behavioral health at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center, an immersion-style residential obesity treatment program.

"We saw very dramatic reductions in the number of people reporting difficulty following moderate weight loss. If people experience benefits and rewards from their weight loss and health efforts, it may help motivate them to continue a healthy lifestyle," Binks said.

The researchers reviewed existing data from women and men who participated in a two-year clinical trial of a prescription weight loss medication conducted at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minn.

Weight loss during the trial averaged about 13 percent of total body weight at the end of two years. The majority were women - 161 out of 187 participants. The average BMI was 40. BMI is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or greater and severe obesity is indicated by a BMI greater than or equal to 40. The average age of participants was 45 years old.

Each participant completed a study questionnaire, called the Impact of Weight on Quality of Life, which evaluates a number of aspects of weight-related quality of life. They filled out the questionnaire prior to the study and at three-month intervals during the two-year period.

The questions assessed six aspects of sexual quality of life: feeling sexually unattractive, lack of sexual desire, reluctance to be seen undressed, difficulty with sexual performance, avoidance of sexual encounters, and lack of enjoyment of sexual activity.

About two-thirds of men and women reported sexual problems at least sometimes - the study standard - when the study began. Age did not appear to be a factor, Binks said. Women were more likely to report lack of enjoyment of sexual activity (20 percent female vs. four percent male) and were more reluctant to been seen undressed (63 percent female vs. 31 percent male).

The most significant improvement in sexual quality of life was seen during the first three months of the study, after an 11.8 percent weight loss. The improvements in sexual quality of life remained relatively stable even with additional weight loss, Binks said.

One year into the study, the prevalence of women reporting feeling sexually unattractive dropped from 68 percent to 26 percent; those not wanting to be seen undressed improved from 63 percent to 34 percent; difficulty with desire reduced from 39 percent to 15 percent; avoidance of sexual encounters dropped from 29 percent to 15 percent; not enjoying sexual activity fell from 21 percent to 11 percent; and difficulty with sexual performance decreased from 27 percent to 12 percent.

Although the number of men in the study was small and limits the ability to draw conclusions, similar improvements in reported difficulty were seen in men, Binks said. The improvements include not wanting to be seen undressed, which declined from 31 percent to 10 percent; having little sexual desire, which dropped from 23 percent to 10 percent; and avoidance of sexual encounters, which fell from 19 percent to 5 percent.

Co-authors include Ronette Kolotkin, Ph.D., and Truls Ostbye, M.D., Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center; Ross Crosby, Ph.D., and James Mitchell, M.D., the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, Fargo, ND; and Guilford Hartley, M.D., Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN.

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