Work-based programs that include dietary advice coupled with behavioural counselling help men and women shed weight, finds study.
Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University, found that workers enrolled in the intervention arm of a randomized controlled trial lost on average, 18 pounds over a six-month period compared to a two pound weight gain in a control group.
Senior Author Sai Krupa Das, Ph.D., a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA at Tufts University, said that over the course of the intervention, a counsellor with training in both nutrition and behaviour modification met at first weekly and later bi-weekly with the participants as a group during their lunch hour.
She said that in these sessions, discussions focused on strategies for menu planning, portion control and managing hunger, as well as dealing with stress-related and emotional eating. The participants also received individual support in a weekly e-mail exchange with the counsellor.
The weight loss component of the study enrolled men and women from four Boston area companies, all of whom had a body mass index (BMI) classifying them as overweight or obese.
Eighty-four (84) men and women from two of the companies, one for-profit and one non-profit, completed the intervention. Thirty-four (34) employees from the other two companies served as the control group.
For six months, the employees enrolled in the intervention followed a reduced calorie diet, emphasizing low-glycemic and high fiber foods that are less likely to raise blood sugar. The participants were responsible for purchasing and preparing their own food.
At the completion of the intervention, Das and colleagues observed substantial improvements in common markers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk.
These included lower total cholesterol and glucose levels and lower blood pressure compared to the control group. Additionally, the intervention participants were given the option to enroll in a six-month, structured maintenance program. No significant weight re-gain was observed in the 40 participants who enrolled and stayed in the program.
The study has been published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.