Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Online Weight Loss Programs

So how effective are computer-based weight loss programs? This has been an interest of mine for many years. As technology advances, opportunities to create innovative programs continue to blossom. However, are these programs effective? There have been multiple clinical studies trying to answer this questions.

A recent JAMA article caught my eye today. Here are some of the details - straight from the abstract:

Comparison of Strategies for Sustaining Weight Loss
The Weight Loss Maintenance Randomized Controlled Trial

Interventions After the phase 1 weight-loss program, participants were randomized to one of the following groups for 30 months: monthly personal contact, unlimited access to an interactive technology–based intervention, or self-directed control.

Context Behavioral weight loss interventions achieve short-term success, but re-gain is common.

Main Outcome Changes in weight from randomization.

Conclusions The majority of individuals who successfully completed an initial behavioral weight loss program maintained a weight below their initial level. Monthly brief personal contact provided modest benefit in sustaining weight loss, whereas an interactive techonology–based intervention provided early but transient benefit.

Here's a link to the JAMA abstract:

So what do you think? Are online weight loss programs effective? Perhaps they can be for certain individuals. Those who are motivated are certainly more likely to lose weight. Perhaps those who regularly use the computer and other digital devices are more likely to receive electronic messages and reminders to help them. There are various interactive tools that can help you calculate your caloric intake/expenditure, calculate your BMI, track your eating habits, and much more. Are these tools fully being leveraged? Are they underutilized? Do people even have the motivation to use them and track caloric reduction?

I believe that technology can help bridge many of these gaps. People can receive reminders and motivational messages on their mobile phones. They can get pop-up reminders on their computers. These tactics may be annoying, but they may also help those who really need and want help.

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