Online diet study

July 17, 2009 3:48:47 PM PDT
There are dozens of computer-based weight loss programs available and tons of pop-up ads for them. But how well do they work and for who? Researchers at Temple University, along with other universities, are trying to find out. Alice Polidoro, of Havertown, Pennsylvania does her best to eat healthy. "I've been struggling with my weight since I had my children, 13, 14 years ago," she said.

So when despite her best efforts she couldn't keep the scale from going up, she joined a weight control study at Temple University. Researchers there say online diet programs are booming in popularity but there's little scientific evidence to support them.

So they've designed a program, based on other popular programs to study how effective they are and who they work best for. "Some people really like that face to face, and that personal coaching. Other people would like to log on at 1 in the morning, and do their calorie counts, and track their physical fitness that way, " said Gary Foster, Ph.D. of the Temple Center for Obesity Research.

For Alice, the website offered personalized advice.

"If you enter that you had a slice of pizza, it will prompt about what type of pizza. It will give you calories and fat grams. It will help with goal setting, so it will give you a way to rate your progress," Foster said.

In addition to eating, the program, like others, also tracks exercise. During the 12-week study, Alice lost 5 pounds, but more importantly, fine-tuned her eating. "The most important thing that I'm learning is portion control," she said.

"It's the structure that helps. It's the accountability, getting on the scale, writing it down," Foster said.

The study hopes to gain more insight into if and how online diets work and who will be most successful using them.

The study is funded by a soft-drink company, but no brands are mentioned in this first part of the study. They are still looking for volunteers. To find more information, call 215-707-8651.

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