Minimal in-person support as an adjunct to internet obesity treatment

Ann Behav Med. 2007 Feb;33(1):49-56. doi: 10.1207/s15324796abm3301_6.


Background: Internet-based weight-loss programs appear promising in the short-term but, to date, have not been able to produce the level of weight loss seen in traditional in-person treatment; thus, novel approaches are necessary. Using a combination of interactive technology and in-person support has been beneficial in other areas of medicine.

Purpose: The aim of this study is to compare 12-month weight-loss outcomes of an Internet-only behavioral weight-loss treatment with the same program supplemented with monthly in-person meetings.

Methods: One hundred and twenty-three participants were randomized to an Internet-only (n = 62) or an Internet + in-person treatment (I+IPS; n = 61). All participants then participated in a 12-month behavioral weight-loss program conducted over the Internet. The groups met online weekly for the first 6 months and biweekly for the second half of the intervention. The I+IPS group had access to the same Web site as the Internet-only group but, once a month, attended an in-person meeting in place of an online chat. Assessments included body weight, program adherence, and social support measures.

Results: An intent-to-treat analysis (n = 123) revealed there were no significant Group x Time differences (p = .15) in weight loss at either 6 (-6.8 +/- 7.8 vs. -5.1 +/- 4.8, p = .15) or 12 months (-5.1 +/- 7.1 kg vs. -3.5 +/- 5.1 kg, p = .17, for Internet-only and I+IPS, respectively). Differences between groups for those completing all measures (n = 77) also revealed no significant differences at 6 months (-9.2 +/- 7.0 kg vs. -6.9 +/- 4.2 kg, p = .08) or 12 months (-8.0 +/- 7.5 kg vs. -5.6 +/- 5.5 kg, p = .10 for the Internet-only and I+IPS conditions, respectively).

Conclusions: Supplementation of an Internet weight-loss treatment with monthly in-person meetings did not result in greater weight losses over 12 months. Dynamic, socially supportive, and interactive elements of the Web site may have obviated the need for further interpersonal behavioral counseling.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction*
  • Curriculum
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Sciences / education*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Social Support*
  • Weight Loss*