It seems as though the majority of weight loss studies are geared toward women, but it is important for men to have an effective way to lose weight, too. Men are at higher risk for developing metabolic syndrome than women, and obese men are six times more likely to develop it than those of a healthy weight.
Some of the factors contributing to the lack of weight loss research aimed at men are that men want a plan that is convenient, provides tailored individual feedback, and includes participants they can identify with. It has also been shown that men are not thrilled about attending structured, face-to-face weight loss programs.
In 2007/2008, a pilot study was done at the University of Newcastle, Australia, that focused exclusively on men and weight loss. The study was done using the SHED-IT (Self-Help, Exercise and Diet using Internet Technology) program. This program is internet based which may be more agreeable to men due to their preferences for a less intrusive weight loss program.
Internet based diet programs have already shown promise as being effective weight loss methods, but this was the first study to focus solely on men. Study participants were divided into three groups: a control group who received no intervention, a group given SHED-IT resources only, and a group given access to SHED-IT online in addition to the resources.
During the pilot study, it was shown that both the Resources only and the SHED-IT online programs resulted in participant weight loss. Furthermore, those who followed the recommended internet advice were able to maintain significantly greater weight loss than those who did not.
A key component of this pilot was the minimal interaction between the participants and researchers. The men were able to self-direct their weight loss through the internet program.
From this pilot study arose a new study being done at the University of Newcastle that is funded by a National Heart Foundation Grant-in-Aid (2010-2011). This new study aims to answer the question; can relatively low dose weight loss programs be effective in achieving weight loss in a community sample of overweight men? Based on the previous study, the authors of the new study hypothesize that:
• Compared to the control group, both the Resources only and the full SHED-IT programs will result in significantly more weight loss as well as improvement in important secondary outcomes related to health.
• The SHED-IT online program will result in the greatest improvement when compared to the control and Resources only groups.
This new study began in September 2010 and is scheduled to conclude in March 2011; the results will be available after that time.
While the main factor for measuring the outcome will be weight loss, there are a range of secondary outcomes that will be tracked as well. These include BMI (body mass index); waist circumference; blood pressure and resting heart rate; body composition; physical activity; dietary intake; portion size; alcohol consumption; physical activity; nutrition; sedentary behaviors; quality of life; sleepiness; and sexual function.
The SHED-IT weight loss system is one of the first weight loss methods to be studied specifically in men. The results of this study aim to show that men can achieve significant initial weight loss and maintain it more successfully through interactive online programs than they can on their own. If proven successful, this could be the beginning of a new, self-directed weight loss system that can be of great benefit to overweight men.
Reference: Philip J Morgan, Clare E Collins, Ronald C Plotnikoff et al. The SHED-IT community trial study protocol: a randomized controlled trial of weight loss programs for overweight and obese men. BMC Public Health. 2010;10:701
Study can be found at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/701