Interventions for weight gain prevention during the transition to young adulthood: A review of the literature

Melissa N. Laska, Jennifer E. Pelletier, Nicole I. Larson, Mary Story

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Purpose: To review studies examining weight gain prevention interventions among young adults. Methods: A snowball strategy was used to identify relevant studies, beginning with systematic PubMed, MEDLINE, PsychINFO, Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) searches. Included studies: (a) were published from 1985 to 2011; (b) were completed in the United States or Canada; (c) focused on weight gain prevention among young adults aged 1835 years, assessing weight, body mass index, body composition, diet, or physical activity as an outcome; and (d) comprised pre- and postintervention assessments. Results: Thirty-seven interventions were identified. Ten interventions assessed weight, body mass index, or body composition; 27 addressed other relevant outcomes (e.g., diet, physical activity). Of the studies examining weight or body composition, six evaluated university courses or seminar-based interventions. Overall, many studies focused on individual-level intervention delivery and changes in weight-related knowledge and/or skills, although some incorporated relatively unique aspects (e.g., focusing on eating disorders and obesity simultaneously, using online technology, providing personalized feedback on weight change). Most showed promising results as small-scale pilot studies but lacked data from fully powered randomized trials. Conclusions: There is an urgent need to develop effective young adult-focused weight gain prevention strategies. This review identified promising areas for future work, although much additional research is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-333
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this work was provided by award number K07CA126837 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) (Principal Investigator: M. Laska). The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NCI. The NCI did not play a role in designing the study, collecting the data, or analyzing/interpreting the results.


  • Behavioral interventions
  • Emerging adults' dietary intake
  • Obesity prevention
  • Physical activity
  • Primary prevention
  • Young adults


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