The year-long HeLP-her intervention prevented a weight gain of nearly 1 kg on average among women living in rural Australia, according to trial results published in PLOS Medicine. The trial, conducted by Catherine Lombard of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues, suggests that low-intensity lifestyle programs can prevent persistent weight gain among women in similar settings.
The researchers randomly assigned 41 Australian towns to either the study intervention or a control group. In the 21 intervention towns, women received a 1 year self-management lifestyle intervention consisting of one group information session with simple health messages, a program manual to facilitate personalized weight gain prevention, monthly reminder text messages, and one 20-minute personal phone coaching session. In the 20 control towns, women received one 45-min group education session on general women's health topics, including guidelines on diet and physical activity, without individual advice. In total, 649 women with an average baseline BMI of 28.2kg/m2 participated in the trial. After one year, the average weight change was +0.44 kg (95% CI -0.09 to 0.97) in the control arm of the trial and -0.48 kg (95% CI -0.99 to 0.03) in the intervention arm, a between group difference in weight change of -0.92 kg (95% CI -1.67 to -0.16). The intervention also improved diet quality and self-management behavior and was equally efficacious across all age, BMI, income, and education subgroups.
Nearly a quarter of the participants did not complete the trial, and a longer follow-up is needed to determine the long-term effects of the intervention. However, these positive results suggest that simple, non-prescriptive health messages can be an effective weight gain prevention strategy. The authors state, "[t]he findings support population strategies to halt the rise in obesity prevalence."