Culturally specific weight loss programs show promise

So many Americans–nearly half, according to one study–gained weight during the first year of the COVID pandemic that a new phrase popped up: the “Quarantine 19.” 

But several dozen Somali and Latino participants in a Mayo Clinic study in Rochester did the opposite: They lost weight. And improved their blood pressure, and ate more vegetables, and exercised more. The study, published in March, looked at immigrants living in southeast Minnesota who were guided by someone from their respective ethnic groups.

The unexpected success story has prompted a larger study of how small, culturally similar groups can promote positive outcomes related to weight loss. Mayo Clinic researchers are currently recruiting participants for a new 450-person trial. They expect to launch the project in June in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and the National Institutes of Health.

“It was so successful because most people gained weight during the pandemic; these were such impressive results,” said lead author Dr. Mark Wieland, a Mayo Clinic physician who focuses his research on community-based strategies to promote health equity. “If this is successful in a more rigorous study, then we can start evidence-based intervention.” 

Weight loss programs tailored to the needs of Somali and Latino immigrants show success, a Mayo Clinic study finds. Participants lost weight during COVID while many other Americans gained weight.