Are standard behavioral weight loss programs effective for young adults?

J. Gokee-Larose, A. A. Gorin, H. A. Raynor, M. N. Laska, R. W. Jeffery, R. L. Levy, R. R. Wing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare the enrollment, attendance, retention and weight losses of young adults in behavioral weight loss (BWL) programs with older participants in the same trials. Methods: Data were pooled from three NIH-funded adult BWL trials from two clinical centers in different regions of the country (total N298); young adults were defined as those aged 18-35 years. Both young adults and adults were compared on session attendance, retention at the 6-month assessment, weight loss and physical activity at 6 months. Results: Young adults represented 7% of the sample, attended significantly fewer sessions than did adults (52 vs 74%, respectively; P< 0.001) and were less likely to be retained for the 6-month assessment (67 vs 95%, respectively; P< 0.05). Controlling for demographic variables, study and baseline weight, the mean weight losses achieved were significantly less for young adults compared with adults (-4.3 kg (6.3) vs-7.7 kg (7.0), respectively; P< 0.05); fewer young adults achieved 5% weight loss at 6 months compared with older participants (8/21 (38%) vs 171/277 (62%); P<.05). After controlling for session attendance, differences in the mean weight loss were not significant (P=0.81). Controlling for baseline values, study and demographics, changes in total physical activity over the initial 6 months of treatment were less for young adults compared with adults, but these differences only approached statistical significance (P0.07). Conclusion: These data indicate that standard programs do not meet the weight control needs of young adults. Research is urgently required to improve recruitment and retention efforts with this high-risk group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1374-1380
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Behavioral weight loss
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Young adults

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