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Recording Weight Online May Keep Pounds Off

People Who Participate in an Online Weight Loss Maintenance Program Better Able to Maintain Weight Loss, Study Finds
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 27, 2010 -- People who have lost weight and who are diligent in using an interactive web site on a regular basis may find it easier to maintain their weight loss, a new study suggests.

Researchers say a study involving 348 people found that those who logged in to an interactive weight loss maintenance web site to record their weight at least once a month for 2.5 years maintained more weight loss than participants who logged in less frequently. Participants could also enter information on their diet, exercise, and other weight loss activities.

The web-based weight maintenance intervention program was part of a study called the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial that lasted three years and included more than 1,600 people across the country.

To enroll in the trial, people had to be overweight or obese based on their body mass index (BMI) and taking medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

For the first six months, participants tried to lose weight by attending weekly group meetings at which they were weighed, encouraged to keep food diaries, and given extensive information about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. To be eligible for the web-based maintenance program, participants had to lose at least 9 pounds. Participants randomly assigned to the Internet group had lost an average of 19 pounds.

The Study

The Internet group included 348 people, who were encouraged to log in at least weekly. If they didn’t, they received email reminders and follow-up automated phone messages. The average age was 56, 37% were male, 38% African-American, and 62% had a college or post-graduate degree. And each had to demonstrate Internet and email access by logging in to a web site and responding to email.

After logging into the web site, participants were prompted to record their weight, their minutes of exercise, and the number of days they kept food diaries.

The web site included an interactive bulletin board on which participants could chat with others involved in the study and pose questions to exercise and nutrition experts.

The study found that people who logged in and recorded their weight at least once a month for 26 of the 28 months managed to maintain the greatest weight loss, keeping off an average of 9 of the 19 pounds they had lost during the weight loss phase of the program.

Those who logged in less consistently, at least once in 14 to 25 months, kept off an average of 5 pounds.

People who logged into the web site less than that kept off an average of only 3 pounds.

At the end of the 28 month study, 65% of the 348 participants were still logging in to the web site.

“Consistency and accountability are essential in any weight maintenance program,” Kristine L. Funk, MS, RD, study author and a researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., says in a news release. “The unique part of this intervention was that it was available on the Internet, whenever and wherever people wanted to use it.”

The factors most linked to less weight regain were number of log-ins and minutes on the web site, number of weight entries, number of exercise entries, and number of sessions using other web site features.

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