Adults with obesity assigned to a 6-month weight-loss intervention using Facebook had similar reductions in body weight as those assigned to an intervention using group conference calls, according to results from a randomized feasibility study.
Erik A. Willis,
MD, of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, and colleagues analyzed data from 70 adults with obesity (mean BMI, 36 kg/m²; mean age, 47 years; 84% women) who were randomly assigned to an intervention using Facebook (n = 34) or group conference calls (n = 36). For the Facebook intervention, participants joined a private group of 12 to 18 individuals using personal social network accounts. Over 24 weeks, health educators posted weekly lessons and audio recordings and contributed four comments per week in the discussion forum; they responded with additional comments when necessary. Participants were asked to post a minimum of four comments per week. Those assigned to the conference call group participated in weekly evening group conference meetings (60 minutes each) for 6 months; meeting protocol included a review of adherence to diet and physical activity recommendations, a lesson on a weight management topic and an experimental learning assignment that required problem solving. Participants in both groups were asked to reduce energy intake by 500 kcal to 700 kcal per day below estimated total energy expenditure and increase physical activity to 300 minutes per week.
Researchers found that participants in both groups experienced clinically meaningful weight loss of at least 5% over 6 months. Those assigned to the Facebook intervention lost a mean of 5.8 kg; those assigned to the conference call group lost a mean of 6.3 kg. There was no significant difference in weight change between groups.
“While there were no significant differences in mean weight loss or the proportions who gained weight and those who lost 0 to less than 5%, 5% to less than 10% and at least 10% between participants randomized to [online social network] and phone, more individuals in the phone group lost more than 5% of their body weight, suggesting that an adequately powered trial is needed to compare weight loss between phone and [online social network groups],” the researchers wrote.
They also noted that cost for the Facebook intervention was 30% lower vs. the phone intervention, making the program more feasible for providers to offer to individuals in low-income settings or as a low-cost corporate wellness opportunity for employers. – by Regina Schaffer
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.