Research: Tele-nutrition as a weight loss intervention

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Is telephonic counseling effecting for weight loss?  



Poor diet and obesity are independent risk factors for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. In particular truncal obesity is one of the tell-tale signs of obesity and heart disease risk in men.  This risk is particularly high in rural areas of the South.  I remember many patients who thought that chicken, even fried, was a healthy part of their diet.  Many fail to understand the risk of high starch and alcohol intake on central obesity.  Also, in much of the world, access to counseling for weight loss is in short supply, and this limits the ability for many rural areas.  Improved education on which foods to limit could be key, and telehealth visit for nutrition education could be a key solution to availability.  

A 2017 study sought to look at telehealth as a potential solution to lack of access to determine if it might be a viable alternative to face to face counseling.  The study used a randomized controlled trial design to pilot test the effect of a 12-week home-delivered telehealth nutrition weight loss program on diet quality in 40 to 70-year-old men from Appalachia who had obesity, a waist circumference over 40 inches, and at least one chronic health condition.  Both the control and the intervention group received diet-related educational materials.  Only the intervention group received individualized, weekly support by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist via telephone and video conferencing. Diet was assessed using 4-day food records and software.  The study looked at diet quality through the use of the Healthy Eating Index.  The results revealed that diet quality significantly increased by 9.5 points in both groups at week 6, but the telenutrition group scores further increased by 9.3 points and it was associated with a 0.7% reduction in body weight.

The bottom line:  Weight loss programs delivered via video conferencing can be effective for improving diet quality in men in health disparate areas like Appalachia.  Improved diet quality should result in weight loss, but only time will tell if the subjects can maintain weight loss.  This study is a promising first step.  I would like to see a longer study to look at 6 and 12 months.  

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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