Computer-based interventions effective for weight loss, maintenance

Interactive computer-based interventions are effective for weight loss and weight maintenance when compared with no intervention or minimal interventions; however, compared with in-person interventions, computer-based interventions result in smaller weight losses and lower levels of weight maintenance, according to a study.

Researchers included 14 weight loss studies with 2,537 participants and four weight maintenance studies with 1,603 participants that evaluated interactive computer-based weight loss or weight maintenance programs in adults with overweight or obesity. Treatment duration was between 4 weeks and 30 months.

Researchers found that computer-based interventions led to greater weight loss vs. minimal interventions, such as pamphlets or usual care, at 6 months. However, participants lost more weight with in-person treatment. Computer-based interventions were also superior to minimal control interventions in limiting weight regain, but not superior to infrequent in-person treatment. Interventions and control groups in both weight loss and weight maintenance trials showed no consistent difference in dietary or physical activity behaviors.

“Computer or web-based weight management programs may be less beneficial than face-to-face interventions, but health care providers have limited opportunities to provide this care, so lower impact treatment approaches need to be considered,” L. Susan Wieland, PhD, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, stated in a press release.

 “These large-scale systematic reviews are helpful to determine — using available peer-reviewed studies — what works and what doesn’t work, so health care providers can make evidence-based recommendations, Karina W. Davidson, PhD, director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center, stated in the release. “Since more patients are participating in online weight loss or management programs, these results reveal that computer-based delivery can be effective.”

For more information:

Wieland LS, Falzon L, Sciamanna CN, et al. Interactive computer-based interventions for weight loss or weight maintenance in overweight or obese people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Aug. 15, 2012. [Epub ahead of print]

Disclosure: Davidson and Wieland have no relevant financial disclosures.

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