|Associate Professor Bonham|
Monash University research has shown that a commercial, structured weight management program leads to weight loss and improved psychosocial outcomes in adolescents who are overweight and obese.
Obesity in childhood and adolescence tracks into adulthood, and is associated with adverse physiological and psychological health outcomes.
“In Australia there are limited effective services and tools for physicians to manage adolescent obesity—and few children and adolescents with obesity seek treatment,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Maxine Bonham from the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food at Monash University.
Associate Professor Bonham said results from a 2011 Cochrane Review had suggested more widely accessible interventions for adolescents with modest weight issues prior to the development of complications would be advantageous.
Published last week in The Journal of Pediatrics, the Monash University research shows for the first time that a structured life-style intervention delivered by a commercial provider in an adolescent population results in clinically relevant weight loss.
“Commercial diet providers are a popular option for adults wanting to lose weight, and if food is supplied as part of the program, reported weight loss is greater,” said Associate Professor Bonham.
For children and adolescents with obesity, however, commercial providers of weight management are scarce.
Associate Professor Bonham’s study evaluated an adolescent weight management program, JenMe, a 12-week face-to-face program developed by dietitians at commercial provider Jenny Craig.
From March 2013 to March 2014, 88 adolescents (aged between 13 and 17) who were overweight and obese participated in the study, were allocated to either the intervention group or the wait-list control group.
“A significant weight reduction of 6.1 kg was observed in the 32 participants who completed the intervention, compared with an average weight gain of 1.9 kg in the 22 participants who completed the no-treatment period,” said Associate Professor Bonham.
Professor Bonham said the intervention participants also reported greater body esteem and quality of life compared with the wait-list control group.
Although follow up data were only available for 35% of intervention group participants, on average they had maintained their weight loss in the 24 weeks after completing the JenMe program.
Commercial weight loss operators provide extended reach and resources beyond that which can be realistically delivered by an already stretched health service.
“Some preliminary data also indicate the affordability and viability of commercial diet programs compared with weight loss interventions run by health professionals,” said Professor Bonham.
“Delivery of such programs by commercial providers offers an alternative avenue to standard care in the management of paediatric obesity.”