Personalized web-based weight loss behavior change program with and without dietitian online coaching for adults with overweight and obesity: randomized controlled trial

Alline Beleigoli, Andre Q. Andrade, Maria De Fatima Diniz, Antonio Luiz Ribeiro

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    Background: The effect of computer- or human-delivered personalized feedback on the effectivess of web-based behavior change platforms for weight loss is unclear. Objective: We aimed to compare the effectiveness of a web-based behavior change intervention personalized through either computerized or human-delivered feedback with a nonpersonalized intervention in promoting weight loss in community-based adults with overweight or obesity. Methods: This pragmatic, 3-group, parallel-arm, randomized trial recruited students and staff in a Brazilian public university who were aged 18 to 60 years, had a BMI of ≥25 kg/m2, and were not pregnant. Participants were allocated to one of 3 groups: platform only (24-week behavior change program delivered using a web platform with personalized computer-delivered feedback), platform plus coaching (same 24-week web-based behavior change program plus 12 weeks of personalized feedback delivered online by a dietitian), or waiting list (nonpersonalized dietary and physical activity recommendations delivered through an e-booklet and videos). Self-reported weight at 24 weeks was the primary outcome. Changes in dietary and physical activity habits within 24 weeks were secondary outcomes. Results: Among the 1298 participants, 375 (28.89%) were lost to follow-up. In the intention-to-treat analysis, the platform-only and platform plus coaching groups had greater mean weight loss than the waiting-list group at 24 weeks (–1.08 kg, 95% CI –1.41 to –0.75 vs –1.57 kg, 95% CI –1.92 to –1.22 vs –0.66 kg, 95% CI –0.98 to –0.34, respectively). The platform-only and platform plus coaching groups, compared with the waiting list group, had a greater increase in the consumption of vegetables (3%, 95% CI 1% to 6% vs 5%, 95% CI 2% to 8% vs –3%, 95% CI –5% to 0%) and fruits (9%, 95% CI 6% to 12% vs 6%, 95% CI 2% to 9% vs 2%, 95% CI 0% to 6%) and a larger reduction in ultraprocessed food intake (–18%, 95% CI –23% to –13% vs –25%, 95% CI –30% to –20% vs –12%, 95% CI –16% to –8%). Changes in physical activity did not differ across the groups. Engagement was higher in the platform plus coaching group than in the platform-only group (7.6 vs 5.2 completed sessions; P=.007). Longer usage of the platform was associated with clinically meaningful (≥5%) weight loss (odds ratio 1.02, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.04). Conclusions: The web-based behavior change programs with computer- and human-delivered personalized feedback led to greater, albeit small-magnitude, weight loss within 24 weeks. Improvement in multiple dietary habits, but not physical activity, were also greater in the personalized programs compared with the nonpersonalized one. The human-delivered personalized feedback by the online dietitian coach increased user engagement with the program and was associated with a significantly higher chance of clinically meaningful weight loss.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere17494
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


    • Diet
    • Digital health
    • Healthy eating
    • Obesity
    • Online coaching
    • Overweight
    • Personalized web interventions
    • Web platform


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