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Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 Nov;37(11):1427-34. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2013.25. Epub 2013 Mar 5.

Randomized controlled trial of behavioral treatment for comorbid obesity and depression in women: the Be Active Trial.

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Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA.



Depression is associated with increased risk for obesity and worse weight loss treatment outcomes. The purpose of the present study was to test the hypothesis that delivering evidence-based behavior therapy for depression before a lifestyle weight loss intervention improves both weight loss and depression.


In a randomized controlled trial, obese women with major depressive disorder (N=161, mean age=45.9 (s.d.: 10.8) years) were randomized to brief behavior therapy for depression treatment followed by a lifestyle intervention (BA) or a lifestyle intervention only (LI). Follow-up occurred at 6 and 12 months. Main outcome measures included weight loss and depression symptoms.


Intention-to-treat analyses revealed both conditions lost significant weight, but no differences between conditions in weight change at 6 months (BA=-3.0%, s.e.=-0.65%; LI=-3.7%, s.e.=0.63%; P=0.48) or 12 months (BA=-2.6%, s.e.=0.77%; LI=-3.1%, s.e.=0.74%; P=0.72). However, the BA condition evidenced significantly greater improvement in Beck Depression Inventory-II scores relative to the LI condition at both 6 months (BA mean change=-12.5, s.d.=0.85; LI mean change=-9.2, s.d.=0.80, P=0.005) and 12 months (BA mean change=-12.6, s.d.=0.97; LI mean change=-9.9, s.d.=0.93; P=0.045). Participants who experienced depression remission by 6 months (61.2%) lost greater weight (mean=-4.31%; s.e.=0.052) than those who did not (39.7%; mean=-2.47%, s.e.=0.53; P=.001).


Adding behavior therapy to a lifestyle intervention results in greater depression remission but does not improve weight loss within 1 year. Improvement in depression is associated with greater weight loss.

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