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Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

Evaluation of a commercial web-based weight loss and weight loss maintenance program in overweight and obese adults: a randomized controlled trial

Clare E Collins1*, Philip J Morgan2, Pennie Jones3, Kate Fletcher1, Julia Martin1, Elroy J Aguiar4, Ashlee Lucas4, Melinda Neve1, Patrick McElduff5 and Robin Callister4

Author Affiliations

1 Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308 Australia

2 School of Education, Faculty of Education & Arts, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308 Australia

3 SP Health Co. Pty Ltd, North Sydney, NSW, Australia

4 School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, Faculty of Health, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308 Australia

5 Hunter Medical Research Institute, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, NSW 2308, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:669  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-669

Published: 3 November 2010



Obesity rates in adults continue to rise and effective treatment programs with a broad reach are urgently required. This paper describes the study protocol for a web-based randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a commercially available program for overweight and obese adult males and females. The aim of this RCT was to determine and compare the efficacy of two web-based interventions for weight loss and maintenance of lost weight.


Overweight and obese adult males and females were stratified by gender and BMI and randomly assigned to one of three groups for 12-weeks: waitlist control, or basic or enhanced online weight-loss. Control participants were re-randomized to the two weight loss groups at the end of the 12-week period. The basic and enhanced group participants had an option to continue or repeat the 12-week program. If the weight loss goal was achieved at the end of 12, otherwise on completion of 24 weeks of weight loss, participants were re-randomized to one of two online maintenance programs (maintenance basic or maintenance enhanced), until 18 months from commencing the weight loss program. Assessments took place at baseline, three, six, and 18 months after commencing the initial weight loss intervention with control participants repeating the initial assessment after three month of waiting. The primary outcome is body mass index (BMI). Other outcomes include weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, plasma markers of cardiovascular disease risk, dietary intake, eating behaviours, physical activity and quality of life.

Both the weight loss and maintenance of lost weight programs were based on social cognitive theory with participants advised to set goals, self-monitor weight, dietary intake and physical activity levels. The enhanced weight loss and maintenance programs provided additional personalized, system-generated feedback on progress and use of the program. Details of the methodological aspects of recruitment, inclusion criteria, randomization, intervention programs, assessments and statistical analyses are described.


Importantly, this paper describes how an RCT of a currently available commercial online program in Australia addresses some of the short falls in the current literature pertaining to the efficacy of web-based weight loss programs.

Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) number: ACTRN12610000197033