March 10 (HealthDay News) -- A 12-week church-based weight loss program helped many overweight/obese blacks lose 5 percent or more of their body weight, and most of them maintained their weight loss for at least six months.
The study included 35 men and women, average age 46, with an average body mass index (BMI) of 36. They took part in a pilot program conducted by lay leaders at Gospel Water Branch Baptist Church near Augusta, Ga. The lay leaders had received two days of training to present the 12 modules of Fit Body and Soul, a faith-based diabetes prevention program adapted from the U.S. National Institutes of Health-sponsored Diabetes Prevention Program.
By the end of the program, 16 of the 35 (46 percent) participants had lost 5 percent or more of their starting weight, and about 26 percent had lost 7 percent of more. After the initial 12-week program, participants had six monthly "booster" sessions for six months. Eleven of the 16 participants (almost 69 percent) who lost weight in the initial program kept the weight off during the six months of follow-up sessions.
The findings were to be presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association's Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
"This kind of result is remarkable in a faith-based program run by lay leaders when so many other community-based programs have failed," principal investigator Dr. Sunita Dodani, director of the Center for Outcome Research and Education, and associate professor, department of internal medicine, School of Medicine, Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, said in an AHA news release.
A multi-year study will compare 10 congregations who use the Fit for Body and Soul program and 10 congregations who use a different health promotion program developed from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Community Guide. All the churches are in the Midwest.
Losing weight through healthy eating and exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 10, 2009