Is personalized weight loss the key to losing weight and keeping it off? There is a dire need for effective weight loss strategies and techniques since 74% of American adults are overweight or obese.
Research demonstrates that even modest weight loss can lead to meaningful risk reduction in adults with obesity. Although both behavioral economic incentives and environmental change strategies have shown promise for initial weight loss, to date their efficacy alone or in combination have not been compared.
Study on Personalized Weight Loss
Although both behavioral economic incentives and environmental change strategies have shown promise for initial weight loss, to date their efficacy alone or in combination have not been compared. This new study attempted to fill that gap.
In a two-year randomized clinical trial, researchers at University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing investigated whether financial incentives and environmental change strategies, together or separately, help employed adults with obesity lose weight and keep it off.
Here is how the research was conducted:
• A total of 344 participants were enrolled, with 86 participants each randomized to the financial incentives group, environmental strategies group, combined financial incentives and environmental strategies group, and a control group.
• Participants had a mean) age of 45.6 years and a mean BMI of 36.5.
• 247 participants (71.8%) were women.
• 172 (50.0%) were Black.
• 138 (40.1%) were White.
• At the primary end point of 18 months, participants in the incentives group lost a mean of 5.4 lb.
• Those in the environmental strategies group lost a mean of a 2.2 lb.
• The combination group lost a mean of 2.4 lb.
• Financial incentives, environmental change strategies, and their combination were not significantly more effective.
• At 24 months, after 6 months without an intervention, the difference in the change from baseline was similar to the 18-month results, with no significant differences among groups.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this randomized clinical trial, across all study groups, participants lost a modest amount of weight but those who received financial incentives, environmental change, or the combined intervention did not lose significantly more weight than those in the control group. Employees with obesity may benefit from more intensive individualized weight loss strategies.
“In our Healthy Weight trial, incentives and environmental strategies led to modest but nonsignificant improvements in weight loss,” explains Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, the George A. Weiss University Professor and Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing).
What Might Be More Effective?
So, what might work better than financial incentives and environmental change? Individual coaching sessions might be the key according to the researchers.
“Of note, the strategies tested in this study did not include any individual counseling sessions or classes.”
While participants across all study groups lost a modest amount of weight, study participants felt they would have benefitted more from intensive guidance such as on-going counseling and coaching. The findings have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Glanz is the lead author of the article. “From a translational standpoint, benefits designs could consider incorporating ongoing financial incentives for weight loss among employees with obesity, while linking online support to more intensive personalized approaches.”
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