Does the incorporation of portion-control strategies in a behavioral program improve weight loss in a 1-year randomized controlled trial?

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Abstract

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES:

Controlling food portion sizes can help reduce energy intake, but the effect of different portioncontrol methods on weight management is not known. In a 1-year randomized trial, we tested whether the efficacy of a behavioral weight-loss program was improved by incorporating either of the two portion-control strategies instead of standard advice about eating less.

SUBJECTS/METHODS:

The Portion-Control Strategies Trial included 186 women with obesity (81%) or overweight (19%). Participants were randomly assigned to one of three equally intensive behavioral programs, consisting of 19 individual sessions over 12 months. The Standard Advice Group was instructed to eat less food while making healthy choices, the Portion Selection Group was instructed to choose portions based on the energy density using tools such as food scales and the Pre-portioned Foods Group was instructed to structure meals around pre-portioned foods such as single-serving main dishes, for which some vouchers were provided. In an intention-to-treat analysis, a mixed-effects model compared weight loss trajectories across 23 measurements; at month 12, weight was measured for 151 participants (81%).

RESULTS:

The trajectories showed that the Pre-portioned Foods Group initially lost weight at a greater rate than the other two groups (P = 0.021), but subsequently regained weight at a greater rate (P = 0.0005). As a result, weight loss did not differ significantly across groups at month 6 (mean ± s.e. 5.2 ± 0.4 kg) or month 12 (4.5 ± 0.5 kg). After 1 year, measured weight loss averaged 6% of baseline weight. The frequency of using portion-control strategies initially differed across groups, then declined over time and converged at months 6 and 12.

CONCLUSIONS:

Incorporating instruction on portion-control strategies within a 1-year behavioral program did not lead to a greater weight loss than standard advice. Using pre-portioned foods enhanced early weight loss, but this was not sustained over time. Long-term maintenance of behavioral strategies to manage portions remains a challenge.

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