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Looking to Lose Weight? Get a 'Coach'
Date:11/15/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Dieters appear to do better if they have either a "coach" or intensive weight-loss counseling, two different studies suggest.

Even if that coach helps out by phone, with no face-to-face contact, it can translate to more weight loss, the experts found. Either approach results in more weight loss than going solo. The studies will be presented this week at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., and published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The 'remote' intervention, to me, is very exciting," said Dr. Lawrence Appel, a professor of medicine and director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health. He led one of the studies.

Weight-loss support and education delivered over the phone or a website, he said, was effective. "We don't discourage in-person," Appel said. "Going in, we thought it would be the best intervention." The researchers found otherwise. "Given their druthers, the people said, 'I prefer not to come in,' 'I prefer to use the phone, the Internet.'"

In the study, Appel and his colleagues assigned 415 obese men and women, average age 54, all with at least one cardiovascular risk factor such as high blood pressure, to one of two programs. In one, patients got weight loss support remotely -- by phone, a website and email. In the second, they got in-person support during group and individual sessions, along with remote support.

The participants received monthly email messages summarizing their progress. If they didn't log on to the website, they got a nudge by email.

A third comparison group met with a weight-loss coach at the study start. They could also meet with the coach at the end. In between, they were on their own, referred to websites on weight
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