Weight-loss programs offering support via telephone and the Web work about as well as in-person counseling to help obese people lose weight, a study has found.
Two intervention programs were compared with a control group in the two-year study released today in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which 415 obese men and women participated. They were randomly placed in a weight-loss program that offered support remotely, via the Web, telephone and email; in a two-year program that included in-person support in addition to the remote support; or in a control group that encouraged independent weight loss.
The remote-support group featured education, worksheets, tools that helped study participants keep track of their goals and progress, and feedback. In-person coaches supported diet and exercise efforts and goals and delved into ambivalent feelings about losing weight. Primary-care providers contributed support as well during routine visits.
After two years, the control had lost an average of about 1.8 pounds, but the remote group and the in-person group had similar average weight losses: 10.1 pounds and 11.2 pounds, respectively. At the two-year mark 18.8% of people in the control group had lost 5% of their starting body weight, compared with 38.2% of those in the remote group and 41.4% of those in the in-person group. Achieving and maintaining a 5% drop in body weight is considered an achievement among many health professionals, because it can lower the risk of some weight-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.