BACKGROUND: Web-based programs are a potential medium for supporting weight loss because of their accessibility and wide reach. Research is warranted to determine the shorter- and longer-term effects of these programs in relation to weight loss and other health outcomes.
OBJECTIVE: The aim was to evaluate the effects of a Web-based component of a weight loss service (Imperative Health) in an overweight/obese population at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) using a randomized controlled design and a true control group.
METHODS: A total of 65 overweight/obese adults at high risk of CVD were randomly allocated to 1 of 2 groups. Group 1 (n=32) was provided with the Web-based program, which supported positive dietary and physical activity changes and assisted in managing weight. Group 2 continued with their usual self-care (n=33). Assessments were conducted face-to-face. The primary outcome was between-group change in weight at 3 months. Secondary outcomes included between-group change in anthropometric measurements, blood pressure, lipid measurements, physical activity, and energy intake at 3, 6, and 12 months. Interviews were conducted to explore participants' views of the Web-based program.
RESULTS: Retention rates for the intervention and control groups at 3 months were 78% (25/32) vs 97% (32/33), at 6 months were 66% (21/32) vs 94% (31/33), and at 12 months were 53% (17/32) vs 88% (29/33). Intention-to-treat analysis, using baseline observation carried forward imputation method, revealed that the intervention group lost more weight relative to the control group at 3 months (mean -3.41, 95% CI -4.70 to -2.13 kg vs mean -0.52, 95% CI -1.55 to 0.52 kg, P<.001), at 6 months (mean -3.47, 95% CI -4.95 to -1.98 kg vs mean -0.81, 95% CI -2.23 to 0.61 kg, P=.02), but not at 12 months (mean -2.38, 95% CI -3.48 to -0.97 kg vs mean -1.80, 95% CI -3.15 to -0.44 kg, P=.77). More intervention group participants lost ≥5% of their baseline body weight at 3 months (34%, 11/32 vs 3%, 1/33, P<.001) and 6 months (41%, 13/32 vs 18%, 6/33, P=.047), but not at 12 months (22%, 7/32 vs 21%, 7/33, P=.95) versus control group. The intervention group showed improvements in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and adopted more positive dietary and physical activity behaviors for up to 3 months verus control; however, these improvements were not sustained.
CONCLUSIONS: Although the intervention group had high attrition levels, this study provides evidence that this Web-based program can be used to initiate clinically relevant weight loss and lower CVD risk up to 3-6 months based on the proportion of intervention group participants losing ≥5% of their body weight versus control group. It also highlights a need for augmenting Web-based programs with further interventions, such as in-person support to enhance engagement and maintain these changes.