Inquirer staff writer Josh Goldstein reports:

Financial incentives can help you shed pounds, according to a Philadelphia study of weight-loss programs published this morning in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania-led study randomly placed 57 obese people between aged 30 and 70 into three groups. They were recruited from the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The goal for all was to lose 16 pounds in 16 weeks. Each participant got a scale and an hour-long, one-on-one consultation on diet and exercise strategies for weight loss.

Participants in two of the groups were also given incentives for achieving goals. One group could earn as much as $252 every four weeks. Those in the other incentive group became eligible for a daily lottery.
Those given financial incentives lost significantly more weight. About half in both of those groups met the goal of a 16-pound loss compared with 10.5 percent, or two people, in the control group.


A year after the study, the participants who got incentives weighed less than at the start of the study, but had not fully sustained their initial losses, suggesting more study of long-term incentives is needed.
"Incentive approaches based on behavioral economic concepts appear to be highly effective in inducing initial weight loss," the study's authors concluded.

Contact staff writer Josh Goldstein at 215-854-4733 or Goldstein@phillynews.com.

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