Reduction of overweight and eating disorder symptoms via the Internet in adolescents: a randomized controlled trial

J Adolesc Health. 2008 Aug;43(2):172-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.01.011. Epub 2008 May 2.


Purpose: Overweight in adolescence is a significant problem which is associated with body dissatisfaction and eating disorder (ED) behaviors. Cost-effective methods for early intervention of obesity and prevention of ED are important because of the refractory nature of both. This multisite RCT evaluated an Internet-delivered program targeting weight loss and ED attitudes/behaviors in adolescents.

Methods: A total of 80 overweight adolescents 12-17 years of age completed Student Bodies 2 (SB2), a 16-week cognitive-behavioral program, or usual care (UC).

Results: Body mass index (BMI) z-scores were reduced in the SB2 group compared with the UC group from baseline to post-intervention (p = .027; eta(p)(2) = .08). The SB2 group maintained this reduction in BMI z-scores at 4-month follow-up, but significant differences were not observed because of improvement in the UC group. The SB2 group evidenced greater increases in dietary restraint post-intervention (p = .016) and less improvement on shape concerns at follow-up (p = .044); however these differences were not clinically significant. No other statistically significant differences were noted between groups on ED attitudes or behaviors. The SB2 participants reported using healthy eating-related and physical activity-related skills more frequently than UC participants post-intervention (p = .001) and follow-up (p = .012).

Conclusions: Findings suggest that an Internet-delivered intervention yielded a modest reduction in weight status that continued 4 months after treatment and that ED attitudes/behaviors were not significantly improved. Group differences on weight loss were not sustained at 4-month follow-up because of parallel improvements in the groups. Future studies are needed to improve program adherence and to further explore the efficacy of Internet-delivery of weight control programs for adolescents.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • California
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Missouri
  • Overweight / therapy*