Diabetes Prevention and Weight Loss with a Fully Automated Behavioral Intervention by Email, Web, and Mobile Phone: A Randomized Controlled Trial Among Persons with Prediabetes

J Med Internet Res. 2015 Oct 23;17(10):e240. doi: 10.2196/jmir.4897.


Background: One-third of US adults, 86 million people, have prediabetes. Two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese and at risk for diabetes. Effective and affordable interventions are needed that can reach these 86 million, and others at high risk, to reduce their progression to diagnosed diabetes.

Objective: The aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of a fully automated algorithm-driven behavioral intervention for diabetes prevention, Alive-PD, delivered via the Web, Internet, mobile phone, and automated phone calls.

Methods: Alive-PD provided tailored behavioral support for improvements in physical activity, eating habits, and factors such as weight loss, stress, and sleep. Weekly emails suggested small-step goals and linked to an individual Web page with tools for tracking, coaching, social support through virtual teams, competition, and health information. A mobile phone app and automated phone calls provided further support. The trial randomly assigned 339 persons to the Alive-PD intervention (n=163) or a 6-month wait-list usual-care control group (n=176). Participants were eligible if either fasting glucose or glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) was in the prediabetic range. Primary outcome measures were changes in fasting glucose and HbA1c at 6 months. Secondary outcome measures included clinic-measured changes in body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, triglyceride/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (TG/HDL) ratio, and Framingham diabetes risk score. Analysis was by intention-to-treat.

Results: Participants' mean age was 55 (SD 8.9) years, mean BMI was 31.2 (SD 4.4) kg/m(2), and 68.7% (233/339) were male. Mean fasting glucose was in the prediabetic range (mean 109.9, SD 8.4 mg/dL), whereas the mean HbA1c was 5.6% (SD 0.3), in the normal range. In intention-to-treat analyses, Alive-PD participants achieved significantly greater reductions than controls in fasting glucose (mean -7.36 mg/dL, 95% CI -7.85 to -6.87 vs mean -2.19, 95% CI -2.64 to -1.73, P<.001), HbA1c (mean -0.26%, 95% CI -0.27 to -0.24 vs mean -0.18%, 95% CI -0.19 to -0.16, P<.001), and body weight (mean -3.26 kg, 95% CI -3.26 to -3.25 vs mean -1.26 kg, 95% CI -1.27 to -1.26, P<.001). Reductions in BMI, waist circumference, and TG/HDL were also significantly greater in Alive-PD participants than in the control group. At 6 months, the Alive-PD group reduced their Framingham 8-year diabetes risk from 16% to 11%, significantly more than the control group (P<.001). Participation and retention was good; intervention participants interacted with the program a median of 17 (IQR 14) of 24 weeks and 71.1% (116/163) were still interacting with the program in month 6.

Conclusions: Alive-PD improved glycemic control, body weight, BMI, waist circumference, TG/HDL ratio, and diabetes risk. As a fully automated system, the program has high potential for scalability and could potentially reach many of the 86 million US adults who have prediabetes as well as other at-risk groups.

Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01479062; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01479062 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6bt4V20NR).

Keywords: Internet; behavior change; intervention studies; nutrition; obesity; physical activity; prediabetes; prevention; smartphone; type 2 diabetes; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control*
  • Electronic Mail / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Prediabetic State / prevention & control*
  • Social Support
  • Weight Loss / physiology*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01479062