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Supportive Weigh-In Program Keeps Pounds Off

MONDAY, May 11 -- The struggle to keep the pounds off that one has just lost can be aided effectively and inexpensively with a simple five-minute weigh-in with a nurse every couple of weeks.

New Zealand researchers, writing in the medical journal CMAJ, found that the biweekly weigh-in, along with a call from the same nurse during the intervening weeks, helped women maintain their weight loss as well as a more expensive and intensive program using dietitians and exercise specialists.

The study, which followed most of 200 women for two years, randomly divided the participants into one group that had the weigh-ins and supportive phones calls with a nurse and another that followed a more comprehensive diabetes prevention program that included regular exercise programs. At the study's start, all the women -- aged 25 to 70 -- had recently lost at least 5 percent of their total body weight.

While intensive programs used for the one group had already been proven successfully in weight maintenance, "the costs to implement these programs are considerable and well beyond the means of health budgets in many countries," wrote the study authors, from the Edgar National Centre for Diabetes Research in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The authors reported that attendance for weigh-ins was excellent, while the other group did not do nearly as well with showing up for its exercise classes. By the second year of the study, attendance at the exercise program declined even further.

"Many participants reported that the weigh-ins and the enthusiastic support provided by the nurse on those occasions and on the telephone were key determinants of their success," wrote the researchers.

While the authors highly supported hospitals adding nurse-led weigh-in programs, Robert Ross of Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in a related commentary in the same issue of CMAJ that adding such programs may not be possible in places where nurses are in short supply. But, he added, that other people -- including exercise specialists and dietitians -- may be just as effective in such a support-oriented program, as he noted that the nurses used for the study were enthusiastic but not trained in nutrition and exercise.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about maintaining a healthy weight.

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Posted: May 2009