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Weight-loss help on the line

November 24, 2008 | 12:31 pm

Not everyone has easy access to in-person counseling for help with obesity. People living in rural communities, for example, where obesity levels are high, typically lack resources for face-to-face coaching.

Phone2Those in-person interventions may not be too crucial, according to a new study that reveals that telephone counseling may be just as effective as in-person counseling for overweight women trying to lose weight.

A group of 234 women took part in the study, published in the Nov. 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. Participants were ages 50 to 75, had a body mass index of more than 30 (generally considered obese), and were from rural parts of northern Florida. All took part in a six-month lifestyle modification program geared to weight loss. After that, about a third of the group was assigned to 26 biweekly individual telephone counseling sessions. Another third received in-person counseling for the same period. And the last third got 26 biweekly newsletters, which included tips on weight-loss maintenance and low-calorie recipes.

At the end of six months, all groups had lost roughly the same amount of weight — about 10 pounds. The women’s BMI scores went down as well, but were also about the same — a reduction of about 3.8 points. Yet during a follow-up from month six to month 18, some changes were noted: women in the face-to-face counseling group and the telephone counseling group had regained an average of 1.2 pounds, while the newsletter group regained an average of 3.7 pounds. In a comparison of total cost, the in-person counseling was the most expensive program, followed by telephone counseling, then the newsletter group.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Howie McCormick / Associated Press