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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Medically supervised weight loss programs that focus on need-based personalized assistance instead of frequent group meetings are less expensive and equally effective in helping adults take off pounds, suggests a helpful study and accompanying editorial recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In a clinical trial of 363 overweight to obese adults where one group received more personalized need-based, occasional weight loss information and another attended monthly to weekly group meetings, both groups lost about seven to eight percent of their weight, experienced similar fitness improvements, and decreased blood pressure during an 18 month period. The differences in weight loss between the two groups were not statistically significant, and other health advancements were statistically similar.
Both groups in the clinical trial (conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill between 2008-2010) were encouraged to decrease their daily calories to about 1800 or 1200 (depending on a participant’s weight at the start of the study). Both groups received counsel to phase in exercise of up to five hours weekly within six months of enrolling in the trial. Both groups received identical overall diet, meal plan, and exercise advice.
However, the study participants that met regularly as a group uniquely received dietary information within classes that included generic strategies to improve food behaviors.
Meanwhile, the need-based, personalized group met less frequently and instead of generic instruction — received tips tailored to a participant’s weight loss progress. Persons in the need- based, personalized group additionally received a 10-minute monthly telephone contact as well as an individual meeting with a counselor during the first months of the program. As the trial continued, the telephone reminders were replaced with a second periodic meeting with a counselor.
Although most of the between group results were similar, the study’s nine authors found the cost to implement the need-based personalized program was about $785 per participant compared to $1,357 per person to host regular group weight loss meetings and classes.
The study’s lead author told Reuters (and we quote): ‘The standard way of doing weight management (as a behavioral intervention) is very time-expensive as well as cost-expensive. We’re trying to find ways to deliver virtually the same effectiveness, if not better effectiveness at a lower cost’ (end of quote).
The editorial that accompanied the study lauded its methods and noted the research was a rare example where most participants in both the intervention and control groups lost weight. The editorial’s author (Dr. George Bray, Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA), writes (and we quote): ‘the approximately 7% to 8% weight reduction achieved at 18 months has important clinical benefits for adults with cardiovascular or diabetic risk factors’ (end of quote).
Overall, Dr. Bray writes the study (and we quote): ‘shows that the novel approach to spending more time and effort on patients who need it most may be more economical than implementing a standard protocol for all participants regardless of their response’ (end of quote).
Still, Dr. Bray explains future research needs to demonstrate how to foster sustainable and long-term weight loss among overweight and obese adults. Despite the weight loss within both study groups during the trial, both groups regained some weight during the last 12 months.
Turning to MedlinePlus.gov’s weight control health topic page, an overview of safe and recommended weight loss programs (from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) is available in the ‘start here’ section. An interactive tutorial that engages you in easy-to-understand, sensible diet and exercise planning also can be found in the ‘start here’ section.
In a website that provides similar counsel to the advice given to both groups in the study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes maintaining healthy weight means a change in lifestyle as well as diet. The CDC’s website is found in the ‘overviews’ section. MedlinePlus.gov’s weight control health topic page also provides tailored information for children, teenagers, men, and women in devoted sections.
MedlinePlus.gov’s weight control health topic page adds the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the weight control health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s weight control health topic page, type ‘weight control’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘weight control (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also has health topic pages devoted to diets, exercise and physical fitness, nutrition, obesity, and body weight.
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