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October 19, 2005
Contact: Dan Lara, University Relations, (785) 864-8855.

Weight loss by telephone can work, KU obesity researcher finds

LAWRENCE -- For individuals looking for a weight-loss program that is more convenient and less expensive than the traditional clinic-based approach, University of Kansas obesity researcher Joe Donnelly may have found a solution.

Donnelly, director of KU's Center for Physical Activity and Weight Management, has completed a study that shows great promise for a weight-loss program that conducts patient counseling by telephone. Preliminary data from a 26-week randomized study shows that participants in the phone-based program lost almost as much weight as another group receiving services through the face-to-face clinical method.

" The results showed promise for weight loss interventions delivered entirely over the phone as a viable alternative to the usual clinic method," Donnelly said.

Participants in the phone-based program lost an average of 23 pounds over 12 weeks and 28 pounds over 26 weeks, which compares favorably to weight loss for participants in the clinic-based program of 28 pounds in 12 weeks and 28 pounds in 26 weeks. Participants included those from Lawrence and the Kansas City area.

Both methods resulted in weight loss above the 5 to 10 percent recommended by the federal government's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines.

For 12 weeks, both the phone and clinic groups followed the same 1,200-calorie diet, which included using calorie-controlled meal replacements, increased servings of vegetables and fruits and weekly physical activity levels that met or exceeded the new Department of Agriculture "Pyramid" diet guidelines. One group of dieters attended weekly group clinic meetings, while the other group met via conference calls. The remaining 14 weeks of the study concentrated on weight maintenance for both groups.

" There are several potential advantages to participants and providers in a phone-based program," Donnelly said. "The cost is less, and there is less conflict with work and family commitments. Individuals also don't incur the time and expense of getting to and from the clinic.

"For the providers, a phone-based program allows them to reduce their overhead expenses such as rent and utilities, which allows them to lower the cost of their services. Essentially, the provider and participant can be located anywhere."

Donnelly will present lectures on his findings at two meetings of the National American Association for the Study of Obesity. Donnelly will speak Oct. 19 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Oct. 22 in St. Louis, Mo.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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