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Obese Find Telephone Counseling on Weight Loss Most Effective

Regular phone calls from a health coach helped obese patients drop 5 percent of their body weight and keep it off for two years, one of the most effective approaches yet, researchers said.

A study of 415 overweight people found 53 percent of people who received telephone, e-mail and website counseling lost the weight after six months, compared with 46 percent who received the remote assistance plus in-person group and individual visits. Fourteen percent of those dieting on their own lost a similar amount of weight, the study said.

“There was no weight regain at two years, and that is unprecedented in weight loss studies,” Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at Boston’s Harvard School of Public Health, said during the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. “This is a remarkable achievement.”

Few patients offered in-person assistance took advantage of the offer, said Lawrence Appel, the lead researcher and a professor at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore. While personal counseling was scheduled to occur monthly, patients made the appointment only once during the last 18 months of the study, he said at the meeting.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The telephone counseling and remote access was provided by Healthways Inc., a Franklin, Tennessee-based provider of cardiovascular and diabetes management services to doctors and health plans.

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