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Study: Money A Major Incentive For Weight Loss

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 12:39 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Weight Loss, Healthy Living, Obesity, Overweight


IMAGE SOURCE:© iStockPhoto / diet / author: saluha

If your desire to be back in your skinny jeans isn’t incentive enough to drop a few pounds, maybe some money will motivate you.

A newly released study suggests, when financial rewards are involved, losing weight becomes easier.

Researchers found weight-loss programs that financially reward participants – while reminding them of the cash they stand to lose if they fail – provided a powerful incentive to lose weight, when compared to conventional approaches.

Over thirty percent of Americans are severely overweight or "obese." People who weigh over twenty percent more than their ideal weight are considered obese. The problem of obesity has been increasing as the American lifestyle has become more and more sedentary.

Despite the fact that diet and exercise are time proven methods of weight control, many people have been attracted to quick weight loss schemes that promise dramatic results with little physical exertion and no reduction in caloric intake.

Most weight-loss programs are unsuccessful because people are asked to sacrifice now, for future rewards, said Dr. Kevin Volpp of the Wharton University of Pennsylvania.

In an interview, Dr. Volpp said, “There is a strong sense of loss aversion, the theory that people are highly motivated to avoid loss.”

"The idea was to create a mechanism where loss aversion would help encourage motivation," he said.

For the study, 57 obese but otherwise healthy people were randomly assigned to one of 3 weight loss plans: monthly weigh-ins, a lottery incentive program, or a deposit contract that allowed for participant matching. All participants shared the same weight loss goal of 16 pounds in 16 weeks.

The incentive group lost the most weight with nearly half of them meeting their weight loss goals.

Participants in the lottery program earned $378.49 and lost an average of 13 pounds while people in the deposit group earned $272.8 and lost 14 pounds.

The control group didn’t fare as well, losing only 4 pounds in four months.

If their weight loss goals were met, they got their money back - plus extra - at the end of the month.

While the studies were effective at producing short-term weight loss, when the financial rewards stopped, the weight quickly began to pack back on. More research is needed to determine whether weight loss can be effective long-term after the cash dries up.

Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and even some cancers.

The study titled, Financial Incentive–Based Approaches for Weight Loss, is published in the December 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). #

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