Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 99–108 | Cite as

The Effect of Computers for Weight Loss: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Trials

  • Virginia A. Reed
  • Karen E. Schifferdecker
  • Michael E. Rezaee
  • Sharon O’Connor
  • Robin J. Larson



The use of computers to deliver education and support strategies has been shown to be effective in a variety of conditions. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the impact of computer-based technology on interventions for reducing weight.


We searched MEDLINE, CENTRAL, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Google Scholar and (all updated through June 2010) for randomized controlled trials evaluating the effect of computer-based technology on education or support interventions aimed at reducing weight in overweight or obese adults. We calculated weighted mean differences (WMD) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) using random effects models.


Eleven trials with 13 comparisons met inclusion criteria. Based on six comparisons, subjects who received a computer-based intervention as an addition to the standard intervention given to both groups lost significantly more weight (WMD −1.48 kg, 95% CI −2.52, –0.43). Conversely, based on six comparisons, subjects for whom computer-based technology was substituted to deliver an identical or highly comparable intervention to that of the control group lost significantly less weight (WMD 1.47 kg, 95% CI 0.13, 2.81). Significantly different weight loss seen in “addition” comparisons with less than six months of follow-up (WMD −1.95 kg, 95% CI −3.50, –0.40, two comparisons) was not seen in comparisons with longer follow-up (−1.08 kg, 95% CI −2.50, 0.34, four comparisons). Analyses based on quality and publication date did not substantially differ.


While the addition of computer-based technology to weight loss interventions led to statistically greater weight loss, the magnitude (<1.5 kg) was small and unsustained.


computer-assisted intervention obesity systematic review meta-analysis 

Supplementary material

11606_2011_1803_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (21 kb)
Appendix 1Protocol changes (PDF 21 kb)
11606_2011_1803_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (23 kb)
Appendix 2Inclusion criteria (PDF 23 kb)
11606_2011_1803_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (34 kb)
Appendix 3Search strategies (PDF 33 kb)
11606_2011_1803_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (47 kb)
Appendix 4Data collection form (PDF 47 kb)
11606_2011_1803_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (224 kb)
Appendix 5Methodological quality assessment tool (PDF 223 kb)
11606_2011_1803_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (23 kb)
Appendix 6Supplemental Figures (PDF 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia A. Reed
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
  • Karen E. Schifferdecker
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Michael E. Rezaee
    • 4
  • Sharon O’Connor
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Robin J. Larson
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Dartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  2. 2.Center for Program Design & Evaluation at DartmouthHanoverUSA
  3. 3.Dartmouth Medical SchoolHanoverUSA
  4. 4.The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical PracticeLebanonUSA
  5. 5.VA Outcomes Group, Veteran’s Affairs Medical CenterWhite River JunctionUSA
  6. 6.Dartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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