Money talks when it comes to losing weight

March 15, 2013

Weight loss study participants who received financial incentives were more likely to stick with a weight loss program and lost more weight than study participants who received no incentives, according to Mayo Clinic research that was recently presented at the American College of Cardiology's 62nd Annual Scientific Session.

Previous studies have shown that financial incentives help people lose weight, but this study examined a larger group of participants (100) over a longer period (one year), says lead author Steven Driver, Internal Medicine Resident at Mayo Clinic. One hundred healthy adult Mayo employees or their dependents, ages 18–63 with a body mass index of 30 to 39.9 kg/m2, were assigned to one of four weight-loss groups: two with financial incentives and two without.

All participants were given a goal of losing 4 lbs per month up to a predetermined goal weight. Participants were weighed monthly for one year. Participants in the incentive groups who met their goals received $20 per month, while those who failed to meet their targets paid $20 each month into a bonus pool. Participants in both incentive groups who completed the study were eligible to win the pool by lottery.

Study completion rates for the incentive groups were significant compared with the non-incentive groups: 62% versus 26%. In the incentive groups, participants’ mean weight loss was 9.08 lbs, compared with 2.34 lbs for the non-incentive groups. Researchers found that even participants in the incentive group who paid penalties were more likely to continue their participation in the study than those in the non-incentive groups.

“The take-home message is that sustained weight loss can be achieved by financial incentives,” said Driver. “The financial incentives can improve results, and improve compliance and adherence.”

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