For the study 192 overweight or obese adults were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: a group receiving no e-mail counselling, a group receiving computer automated counselling, or a group receiving counselling via email from a human. Participants in all groups were oriented and encouraged to follow an internet weight loss program, with the automated and human groups also having access to an electronic diary and message board.
In addition, the human group received weekly email feedback from a counsellor, while the automated group received computer automated feedback messages. All three groups were measured at the start of the program, three months and six months
"We found that both the human and computer automated groups lost significantly more weight than the group without counselling after three months," says Deborah Tate, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the School or Public Health at the University of North Carolina..
While average weight loss was similar for both groups receiving e-counselling at three months - the authors found that at six months, the human group experienced the greatest overall weight loss, averaging a loss of 13 to 15 pounds.
"Findings supported our previous research suggesting that human e-mail counselling improves weight loss, but it also implies that computer automated feedback was sufficient to promote short-term adherence to diet and exercise and result in a weight loss that could have important health benefits," says Tate.
"Further research is needed to improve the computerized approach to promote continued adherence over a longer period of time, but from a public health perspective - this is a promising area to explore," says co-author Rena Wing, PhD, Director of the Weight Management and Diabetes Research Center at The Miriam Hospital and Brown Medical School.
MEDICA.de; Source: Lifespan