Jennifer Monti

June 04, 2010

June 4, 2010 (Baltimore, Maryland) — New research from the Self-Help, Exercise, and Diet Using Information Technology (SHED-IT) men-only weight loss trial was presented here at the American College of Sports Medicine 57th Annual Meeting. The findings show that men who are most successful at losing weight reduce their portion size and limit fat intake but don't necessarily follow dietary recommendations, the SHED-IT investigators reported.

Sustained weight loss is the central challenge of any behavioral modification program that targets overweight and obese individuals. These problems are notoriously intransigent among adult men, who are less likely to seek medical and dietary advice to reach and maintain a healthy weight, noted Rachel Callister, PhD, associate professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia, and lead researcher on the project.

SHED-IT is an Internet-based weight loss program in which participants have access to a study Web site to self-monitor diet and activity, and feedback is provided on the basis of participants' online entries.

Dr. Callister reported that "there are few studies that have reported on the type of dietary changes that men will actually adopt in order to lose weight. We were interested in what really works for men, beyond vague suggestions that one ought to eat less red meat and more fruits and vegetables."

The SHED-IT trial involved 65 overweight/obese men (mean age, 35.9 ± 11.1 years) with a mean body mass index of 30.6 ± 2.8 kg/m2. Dietary intake was assessed at baseline and at 6 months by recording respondents' usual consumption of 74 foods and 6 alcoholic beverages.

Although all of the men in this trial lost weight, a subset of 21 men were the most successful and had lost more than 5% of their total body weight at 6 months. The most successful participants were most willing to reduce portion size, ate the same amount of carbohydrates and protein as the other participants, and reduced fat intake by 40% and sugary drink intake by 55%.

One of the most valuable lessons from this study is the recognition that none of the men increased their fruit and vegetable intake to meet the guidelines, and fiber intake remained well below recommended levels throughout the intervention, Dr. Callister said.

"This is valuable because it contrasts the diet recommendations with what actually works in adult men," said Janet Whatley Blum, ScD, professor at the University of Southern Maine, Portland. "It will help us sort the 'signal from the noise.' We can more effectively arrange the laundry list of suggestions that is given to overwhelmed patients."

These findings have implications for the targeted design of weight loss interventions for men, Dr. Blum noted. Such targeted information could help break the impasse at the intersection of public health efforts and intractable obesity at the population level.

Dr. Callister and Dr. Blum have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 57th Annual Meeting: Abstract 647. Presented June 2, 2010.

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