A randomized trial comparing weight loss treatment delivered in large versus small groups

Academic Article


  • Background: Behavioral interventions for obesity are commonly delivered in groups, although the effect of group size on weight loss has not been empirically evaluated. This behavioral weight loss trial compared the 6- and 12-month weight changes associated with interventions delivered in a large group (LG) or small groups (SG).Methods: Obese adults (N = 66; mean age = 50 years; mean BMI = 36.5 kg/m2; 47% African American; 86% women) recruited from a health maintenance organization were randomly assigned to: 1) LG treatment (30 members/group), or 2) SG treatment (12 members/group). Conditions were comparable in frequency and duration of treatment, which included 24 weekly group sessions (months 1-6) followed by six monthly extended care contacts (months 7-12). A mixed effects model with unstructured covariance matrix was applied to analyze the primary outcome of weight change while accounting for baseline weight and dependence among participants' measurements over time.Results: SG participants lost significantly more weight than LG participants at Month 6 (-6.5 vs. -3.2 kg; p = 0.03) and Month 12 (-7.0 vs. -1.7 kg; p < 0.002). SG participants reported better treatment engagement and self-monitoring adherence at Months 6 and 12, ps < 0.04, with adherence fully mediating the relationship between group size and weight loss.Conclusions: Receiving obesity treatment in smaller groups may promote greater weight loss and weight loss maintenance. This effect may be due to improved adherence facilitated by SG interactions. These novel findings suggest that the perceived efficiency of delivering behavioral weight loss treatment to LGs should be balanced against the potentially better outcomes achieved by a SG approach.
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    Author List

  • Dutton GR; Nackers LM; Dubyak PJ; Rushing NC; Huynh TVT; Tan F; Anton SD; Perri MG
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 1