Structured weight-loss programme can benefit overweight women

The results of a study led by nutrition experts at Moores UCSD Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego suggest that weight loss treatment programs which promote diet and lifestyle changes can successfully facilitate weight loss and weight loss maintenance in obese and overweight women.  The study was presented Saturday, October 9, at The Obesity Society (TOS) conference in San Diego, California, and published simultaneously in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Cheryl Rock of Moores UCSD Cancer Center''Findings from this study suggest that this incentivized, structured weight-loss program with free prepared meals can effectively promote weight loss compared with usual care groups,'' said principal investigator Cheryl Rock, PhD, RD, of Moores UCSD Cancer Center.  ''Importantly, weight loss was largely maintained at two-year follow-up.''  The authors also noted that even small percentage weight changes can result in a reduction of risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Rock and her team conducted a randomized controlled trial of weight loss and weight maintenance in 442 overweight or obese women (with a body mass index of 25 to 40), ages 18 to 69.  The study was conducted over a two-year period with follow-up between November 2007 and April 2010. 

The women were randomly placed into three intervention groups: the first two either in-person, or telephone-based, with weekly one-on-one weight loss counseling.  These two groups received free-of-charge, prepackaged prepared foods from Jenny Craig, Inc., and counseled to increase physical activity for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.  (These participants were eventually transitioned to a meal plan that was not based mainly on the commercial program).  The third intervention was a usual care group, which received two individualized weight loss counseling sessions with a dietetics professional and monthly contact.

At 24 months, the average weight loss for the women participating in the center-based group was about 16 pounds or 7.9 percent of their initial weight, about 14 pounds or 6.8 percent for the telephone-based group, and about 4.5 pounds for the usual care control group.  By the end of the study, more than half in either intervention group had a weight loss of at least 5 percent compared with less than a third of usual care participants.

''While our study suggests that structured weight loss programs may be a viable option for physicians and their patients, this is not a quick fix,'' cautioned Rock.  ''If health care practitioners are applying these findings to the care of the average patient, they must realize that effectiveness likely relates to motivation and adherence as well.''

In addition to Rock, the research team includes Shirley W. Flatt, MS, and Bilge Pakiz EdD, Moores UCSD Cancer Center; Nancy E. Sherwood, PhD, HealthPartners Research Foundation and Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Njeri Karanja, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Oregon; and Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, RD, Arizona Cancer Center, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Arizona.

This study was sponsored by Jenny Craig, Inc., Carlsbad, California through a clinical trial contract coordinated through UCSD School of Medicine.  By contractual agreement, scientists at UC San Diego and the other participating institutions have responsibility and independence regarding data management, analysis, and publication.  The sponsor provided program activities and materials, including prepackaged foods, to subjects assigned to the commercial weight loss program.  The sponsor had a minimal role in the design and protocol development, and no role in the collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, or the preparation, review or approval of the manuscript.