Log-on and lose weight

Sep 15 2009

University of Newcastle researchers looking into online weight loss programs are asking for volunteers to help them assess the effectiveness of the schemes.

The researchers will investigate strategies to help the 7.5 million Australians already overweight or obese modify their lifestyles and improve their health through effective and accessible weight management programs.

Chief researcher Associate Professor Clare Collins, from the University’s Faculty of Health, said online weight loss programs were a relatively new phenomenon but it was not yet known how effective they were.

“On the surface, internet-based weight loss programs look great – they can be accessed at any time, are cost-effective, provide services to many people at once and people can take part no matter where they live,” Associate Professor Collins said.

“But there is only limited data on how well they work. To date there has only been one study that included long-term monitoring so we really have no real idea of what happens to people using the program.

“Our study will evaluate the effectiveness of a program over a number of years and help discover ways to improve it to ensure it offers the best chance at achieving results.”

Hunter region residents aged between 18 and 60 years with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 25 and 40, and who have regular access to the internet, are being asked to take part in the landmark study.

Participants will be given access to partner organisation SP Health’s internet-based weight loss program the Biggest Loser (online) Club, with their progress followed for 18 months.

Researchers will look at a range of factors including initial weight loss, gender differences, improvements in health status and the online features used by participants.
Around 250 people are needed for the study and anyone interested in taking part can call 02 4921 5405 or email Julia.Martin@newcastle.edu.au to register.

The research team has been awarded a $240,000 grant from the Australian Research Council and almost $400,000 by SP Health to undertake the project.
Associate Professor Collins and her team are members of the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s (HMRI) Public Health program.

HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.