The study the longest Internet weight loss study to date is published in the April 9, 2003, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It was led by Deborah F. Tate, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Brown Medical School; Tate is based at Miriam Hospital.
Internet behavioral programs may offer an alternative to more burdensome clinic programs, said Tate. This study demonstrated Internet interventions could be used for longer periods of time, a necessary model for treatment of chronic diseases.
The study, which began in September 2001, included 92 adults whose average age was 48 and who were about 40 pounds overweight with two or more risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Some 10 million Americans are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, which is the main cause of kidney failure, limb amputations and new onset blindness in adults, and a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
Participants were randomly assigned to either of two treatment groups: a basic Internet program and the basic program coupled with e-mail counseling. (The Web site developed for this study is not commercially available, and was password protected.)
The basic group had access to the Web site that provided a tutorial on weight loss, a new tip and link each week, and a directory of selected Internet weight loss resources. Each week, participants received an e-mail reminder to submit his or her weight.
Participants in the e-mail counseling group had the same program plus additional e-mail communication with an assigned weight loss counselor. They were instructed to report calorie and fat intake, exercise energy expenditure, and any comments or questions for the therapist via a Web-
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