Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Reporting quality of randomized trials in the diet and exercise literature for weight loss

Cheryl A Gibson1*, Erik P Kirk2, James D LeCheminant3, Bruce W Bailey3, Guoyuan Huang4 and Joseph E Donnelly3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, KS, 66160, USA

2 Center for Human Nutrition, Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine St. Louis, Missouri, 63110, USA

3 Energy Balance Laboratory & The Center for Physical Activity and Weight Management The Schiefelbusch Institute for Lifespan Studies University of Kansas Lawrence, KS, 66045, USA

4 Department of Physical Education, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN, 47712, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Research Methodology 2005, 5:9  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-5-9

Published: 23 February 2005



To adequately assess individual studies and synthesize quantitative research on weight loss studies, transparent reporting of data is required. The authors examined the reporting quality of randomized trials in the weight loss literature, focusing exclusively on subject characteristics as they relate to enrollment, allocation, and follow-up.


An extensive literature review, which included a computerized search of the MEDLINE database, manual searches of bibliographic references, and cross-referencing of 92 review articles was conducted. A checklist, based on CONSORT recommendations, was used to collect information on whether or not authors reported age, gender, co-morbid disease, medication use, race/ethnicity, and postmenopausal status. Also tracked was whether or not initial and final sample size was reported and stratified by gender.


Of 604 possible articles, 231 articles met eligibility criteria. Important subject characteristics were not reported as the following breakdown indicates: age (11%), gender (4%), race/ethnicity (86%), co-morbid disease states (34%), and medication use (92%). Additionally, 21% of articles failed to report initial sample size by gender while 69% neglected to report final sample size by gender.


Inadequate reporting can create difficulties with interpretation and can lead to biased results receiving false credibility. The quality of reporting for weight loss studies needs considerable improvement.