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DIET INDUSTRY URGED TO SHOW ITS TRUE FORM

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Americans spend more than $33 billion a year to lose weight and yet a third of adults are still too fat, according to scientists who say the weight-loss industry needs to shape up.

The scientists, who have produced new guidelines on safe and effective dieting, are urging the industry to disclose the true effectiveness of everything from diet guidebooks to Jenny Craig programs."The current system is chaos," said Dr. Arthur Frank of George Washington University, co-author of the guidelines. "None of these programs gives any information."

The Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, assembled a panel of experts to study obesity. The conclusion: 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men are obese, despite spending more than $33 billion a year on weight-loss products and programs.

The few who complete weight-loss programs lose 10 percent of their body weight, the panel reported.

Even that small an amount is healthful, said former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who Tuesday was launching a "Shape Up America!" campaign that aims to sell Americans on the benefits of even modest losses.

"Eat sensibly. Exercise regularly. Drop a few pounds. Shape up," Koop advises.

The problem is, Americans can't keep the pounds off. The average dieter regains two-thirds of lost weight within one year and almost all within five years, the expert panel reported.

"We have an epidemic of obesity in this country among adults and children," said panel chairwoman Judith Stern of the University of California, Davis. "They need tools for making better decisions about how to lose weight."

The panel called on weight-loss programs to issue comprehensive data about who they serve and what results they achieve so dieters can pick the best program for themselves.

But Frank, who wants such programs to go a step further and be accredited, acknowledged the request is purely voluntary because the weight-loss industry is largely unregulated.