University of Vermont

University Communications


Popular VTrim Web Weight-Loss Program Rolls Out $3.5 Million Study

By Cheryl Dorschner Article published August 29, 2005

The University of Vermont weight-loss research program that gained worldwide media attention when it showed that it helped on-line participants lose an average of 21 pounds in six months will expand the study this fall to reach nearly 500 participants thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

“Sixty-five percent of the adult population is overweight or obese, but safe, effective treatments for obesity are expensive and limited in the number of people they reach,” says the study’s principal investigator, Jean Harvey-Berino. “Our initial research shows that on-line participants can lose as much weight as those attending weight loss programs in person. If we can continue this success rate via the Internet, we’ll have solid information for clinicians and policymakers looking for low-cost, high-reach obesity treatment,” added Harvey-Berino, who is chair of UVM’s Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences.

Collaborating with Delia Smith West at the University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences, researchers will not only increase the number but also the diversity of participants. Under the VTrim Study, while using the fundamental principles of weight control — eat less and move more — participants keep a food journal, track exercise, record their emotions related to eating and exercise and develop a support network to keep them motivated. The study will compare the efficacy of traditional treatment (face-to-face weekly meetings) to virtual meetings via on-line chats.

“We will also use this research opportunity to evaluate whether we can improve Internet success with minimal in-person support,” said Beth Casey Gold, clinical coordinator of the university’s Behavioral Weight Management Program.

“The Internet has enormous potential to bring weight-loss success and lifestyle changes to people worldwide and in settings where traditional clinics cannot,” said Rachel Johnson, dean of UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “In addition, the Web can reach people who might shy away from in-person treatment. The need for breakthroughs in obesity treatment has never been greater.”

To learn more about the study or to be considered as a participant contact Beth Gold at