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A Weight-loss Intervention Shows Promise for Low-income Mothers Post-childbirth

A recent study has shown that an Internet-based weight loss intervention produces greater weight loss in low-income women who have recently given birth than a standard care program alone.

Weight retention post-childbirth can increase a woman’s risk of developing obesity and associated complications later in life. In addition, maintaining excess weight can compromise future pregnancies, affecting the health of both mother and child. However, few effective interventions exist for new mothers in low-income populations, who are at higher than average risk for weight retention. Researchers enrolled more than 370 new mothers, most of them Hispanic, from a federally funded nutrition assistance program in a 12-month study to assess the effects on weight of adding a primarily Internet-based weight-loss program to the standard care of the nutrition assistance program versus the standard care alone. While women in the standard care group received supplemental foods and newsletters with information about nutrition, exercise, and weight loss, women in the intervention group additionally received interactive and motivational Internet-based weight loss guidance, activity trackers, and dietary assessment tools, as well as multiple weekly text messages providing information and feedback, and monthly face-to-face group meetings with study staff; the entire program was available in English and Spanish. At the end of the trial, the researchers compared the weights of participants in both groups and found that participants in the intervention group achieved a greater weight loss (7 pounds) than those who received standard care alone (2 pounds), indicating that the addition of the Internet-based program was effective in promoting weight loss in low-income women post-childbirth who were enrolled in the nutrition assistance program. In addition, more women in the intervention group returned to their self-reported pre-pregnancy weight, providing more evidence that the intervention is an effective weight-loss tool.

Even a modest reduction in weight can improve blood glucose (sugar) and lower the risk of developing obesity later in life. This study highlights a practical and successful method of losing weight after giving birth among women at high risk of weight retention, potentially improving their long-term health. Future studies could help determine which components of this multi-faceted intervention were most critical to promoting weight loss, what might be added to enhance weight loss, and whether a primarily Internet-based weight loss intervention such as the one tested is cost effective.

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