Researchers quantify healthcare savings of weight loss

Excess body fat is linked to a host of chronic illnesses, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. These conditions require ongoing treatment, and therefore present a major challenge in reducing healthcare costs, especially in light of rising obesity rates.

As a result, researchers at biopharmaceutical company VIVUS conducted a study to determine how much could be saved in Medicare costs if patients on the plan dropped their body weight by 10 percent.

They found that the decrease in body fat could potentially result in $8 billion in savings over a decade, and $35 billion over the patients’ lifetimes.

“Obesity is a national epidemic with few useful treatment options. I am hopeful that new therapies will continue to be developed at a time when members of Congress are looking for Medicare spend reductions with aging baby boomers,” said Kenneth E. Thorpe, Ph.D., professor and chair of health policy and management at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health.

These findings suggest that employee wellness programs that encourage healthy living may result in fewer obese staff members, which may save companies significant money on employee health benefits.