Food and Behaviour Research

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21 July 2014 - MNT - Black women in weight management program experienced a reduction in their depression

Black women in weight management program experienced a reduction in their depression

For the 91 women randomly placed in the intervention group, the year-long program included five primary components: three personally tailored behavior change goals (i.e., no sugary drinks, walk 10,000 steps per day, no fast food), self-monitoring of these goals via weekly interactive voice response phone calls; tailored skills-training materials; 12 monthly individual counseling calls with a registered dietitian; and a 12-month YMCA membership.

Along with weight-loss counseling from physicians, the 94 women in the usual-care group received semiannual newsletters that covered health topics other than weight, nutrition or physical activity, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's "Aim for a Healthy Weight" brochure at the baseline visit.

"These results suggest that the 'maintain, don't gain' approach could be a first line of treatment for women who have barriers accessing traditional treatment approaches," Steinberg said. "A key challenge is getting health systems to use interventions like these, so we are evaluating the use of smartphone apps and text-messaging to make it easier for people to access them."

At the start of the 12-month study, 19 percent of intervention participants and 21 percent of usual-care women reported moderate to severe depression.

But after 12 months, just 11 percent of intervention participants said they were still depressed, compared to 19 percent receiving usual care. At 18 months, 10 percent of the intervention group said they were depressed, while the usual-care group remained at 19 percent, according to the study.

These findings were not related to how well the women did in the weight management program nor whether they were taking depression medication.

"Interventions that focus on maintaining your weight, not just losing weight, may have more widespread effects," said lead author Dori Steinberg, a research scholar with the Duke Digital Health Science Center. "It is exciting that we improved depression among a population that is severely socioeconomically disadvantaged and has limited access to depression treatment. The reductions we saw in depression are comparable to what is seen with traditional approaches like counseling or medication treatment."