(HealthDay News) – A behavioral weight-loss intervention can lead to significant weight loss in overweight and obese adults with serious mental illness, according to a study published online March 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with presentation at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions, held from March 19 to 22 in New Orleans.

Gail L. Daumit, MD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues recruited 291 overweight or obese adults from 10 community psychiatric rehabilitation outpatient programs (58.1% schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder; 22% bipolar disorder; and 12% major depression) and randomized them to either the control group or an intervention group that received tailored group and individual weight-management sessions and group exercise sessions. Assessments of weight occurred at six, 12, and 18 months.

The researchers found that, among the 279 remaining participants, weight loss in the intervention group progressively increased over the 18 months of follow-up. The intervention group lost significantly more weight than the control group at each assessment. The mean between-group difference in weight was -3.2 kg at 18 months. In the intervention group, 37.8% of participants lost ≥5% of their initial weight, vs. 22.7% of participants in the control group.

“Given the epidemic of obesity and weight-related disease among persons with serious mental illness, our findings support implementation of targeted behavioral weight-loss interventions in this high-risk population,” the authors write.

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