Objective: This randomized controlled trial tested the efficacy of an internet-based lifestyle behavior modification program for weight management in African-American girls.
Design: African-American girls were randomly assigned to an interactive behavioral internet program or an internet health education program, the control condition. The behavioral intervention included internet counseling and was highly interactive. The control intervention was a passive (non-interactive) educational program. Parents were also participants in the study. Participants in both treatment groups met in face-to-face sessions on four occasions over the first 12 weeks of a 6-month intervention.
Subjects: The study enrolled 57 African-American adolescent girls (ages 11 to 15 years) who were overweight or obese and had at least one biological parent who was obese [body mass index (BMI) >30 kg/m2]. Of the 57 participants, 50 (88%) completed the 6-month trial.
Measurements: Outcome data, including BMI, body weight, body composition, dietary intake, and weight loss behaviors were collected at baseline and 6-months later. A computer server tracked utilization of the websites. Participation in the program was measured by number of "hits" on the website.
Results: Compared to the control condition, adolescents in the behavioral treatment lost more body fat (group difference =1.6% body fat) and parents lost significantly more body weight (group difference =2.1 kg). Utilization of the behavioral website by adolescents and parents was associated with positive outcome. Dietary fat intake was lowered for adolescents and parents in the behavioral treatment group.
Conclusion: An internet-based behavioral intervention was superior to internet-based health education and yielded decreased body fat for adolescent girls and decreased body weight for parents.