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Counseling by Phone or in Person Helps Weight Loss

Along with sibutramine, frequent dietitian visits hold advantage over other lifestyle interventions

TUESDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Frequent contact with a dietitian in person or by phone may be equally as effective in helping individuals lose weight, according to research published in the Feb. 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Andres G. Digenio, M.D., Ph.D., of Pfizer in South Lyme, Conn., and colleagues analyzed data from 376 obese adults who were randomized to receive sibutramine for six months in conjunction with one of five lifestyle interventions: high-frequency face-to-face counseling, low-frequency face-to-face counseling, high-frequency telephone or e-mail counseling, or self-help. All subjects also received a weight-loss manual and access to a Web site.

The high-frequency face-to-face and telephone counseling groups showed a similar amount of mean weight loss at six months (8.9 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively), which was significantly higher than the other groups, the researchers report. Weight loss in the other groups ranged from 6.4 percent for low-frequency face-to-face counseling to 5.2 percent for self-help. All groups showed a clinically relevant amount of weight loss, though the sibutramine likely accounted for most of the loss in the e-mail and the self-help groups, the authors write.

"Dietitian counseling over the telephone could thus become an effective alternative to face-to-face counseling. By reducing the number of in-person visits to a physician's office, telephone contacts may lower costs for both patients and providers, and by reducing visit burden, it may even extend adherence to the weight-loss program," the authors write.

The study was funded by Pfizer Global Research and Development. Several study authors report a relationship with the company.

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