What consumers want to know about commercial weight-loss programs: a pilot investigation

Obes Res. 2003 Jan;11(1):48-53. doi: 10.1038/oby.2003.9.


Objective: In 1999, the Partnership for Healthy Weight Management recommended that providers of commercial weight-loss programs (and products) voluntarily disclose information concerning the safety, costs, and central components of their programs, as well as the credentials of program staff. These guidelines were drafted without the benefit of data from consumers concerning the specific information they desired. The present study provides such data.

Research methods and procedures: Participants were 90 women with a mean age of 44.02 +/- 9.17 years and body mass index of 36.11 +/- 4.82 kg/m(2) who were participants in one of two randomized weight-control trials. Before treatment, respondents were asked to imagine that they were "looking for a weight-loss plan" and to rate how important each of 16 factors would be in helping them select a plan. Ratings were made using 5-point scales, anchored by "not at all important" and "extremely important," (scored 1 and 5, respectively). Participants also identified the five factors that they thought were the most important, as well as the single most important.

Results: The mean rating for the importance of safety (4.57 +/- 0.60) was significantly greater than that for each of the 15 other variables (all p values < 0.05). In addition, significantly more respondents (27.8%) selected safety as the single most important factor than any other variable (all p values < 0.05). Other factors that were consistently judged as very important included information about diet (4.38 +/- 0.68), behavior modification (4.32 +/- 0.76), cost (4.19 +/- 0.92), and maintenance of weight loss (4.15 +/- 0.91). Staff credentials (3.88 +/- 0.83) were among the lowest rated items.

Discussion: The results generally support the disclosure guidelines proposed by the Partnership for Health Weight Management. Consumers, however, seem to desire information about weight loss, in addition to that concerning safety, cost, and central program components.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Body Mass Index
  • Commerce
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Safety
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Loss*