Mindfulness-based group intervention in adolescents at-risk for excess weight gain: A randomized controlled pilot study

Appetite. 2019 Sep 1;140:213-222. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2019.05.022. Epub 2019 May 18.


Objectives: To assess feasibility/acceptability of a mindfulness-based approach to excess weight prevention in adolescents at-risk for excess weight gain. To pilot test efficacy of a mindfulness-based intervention for improving food reward sensitivity, stress-eating, executive function (EF), and BMI/adiposity.

Methods: A pilot randomized controlled trial was conducted with 12-17y adolescents at-risk for excess weight gain based on above-average weight (body mass index [BMI]≥70%ile) or parental history of obesity (BMI≥30 kg/m2). Adolescents were randomized to a mindfulness-based (n = 29) or health education control group (n = 25) that met for six weekly one-hour sessions. Feasibility/acceptability were determined from attendance and acceptability survey ratings. At baseline, six-week and six-month follow-up, adolescents' perceived stress was measured with the Perceived Stress Scale, food reward sensitivity with a behavioral task, stress-eating during a laboratory test meal, and EF with the parent-reported Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function and NIH Toolbox. At the same intervals, BMI indices and body fat by air displacement plethysmography were assessed in a fasted state.

Results: Median session attendance was 6:6 sessions in both conditions; program acceptability ratings were above-average. Compared to health education, adolescents in mindfulness had lower food reward sensitivity at six-months (Cohen's d = 0.64, p = .01). There were no between-condition differences in BMI (mindfulness vs. health educationΔsix-months 95%CI 0.20, 1.52 kg/m2 vs. 0.21, 1.62 kg/m2) or adiposity (-3.64, -0.61% vs. -4.31, -1.04%) changes.

Conclusions: A mindfulness-based group intervention is feasible/acceptable among adolescents at-risk for excess weight. In this pilot sample, mindfulness and health education were equivocal for BMI/adiposity outcomes. Future trials with a larger, adequately-powered sample and longer-term follow-up are necessary to test efficacy of a mindfulness-based intervention for food reward sensitivity, stress-eating, EF, and stabilizing growth trajectories in youth at-risk for adult obesity.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03085160.

Keywords: Adolescent; Mindfulness; Obesity; Prevention; Randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03085160