Obesity intervention in persons with spinal cord injury.

STUDY DESIGN: A single group uncontrolled trial.

OBJECTIVES: Despite widespread emphasis on the obesity-related health risks in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI), limited research has been carried out to intervene in this problem. This study was conducted to assess the initial effectiveness of a weight loss program on various health outcomes in persons with SCI.

SETTING: A rehabilitation center in Birmingham, Alabama, United States.

METHODS: A total of 16 individuals with chronic SCI who were overweight or obese participated in a weight management program that consisted of 12 weekly classes, covering nutrition, exercise, and behavior modification. Various outcomes were examined over a 6-month period (baseline, week 12, and week 24), including body composition measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, physiologic measures, diet behavior, and psychosocial and physical functioning. Of these, 13 participants returned for the week 24 follow-up.

RESULTS: Weight loss averaged 3.5+/-3.1 kg (3.8% of the initial weight) at week 12 and 2.9+/-3.7 kg (3.0% of the initial weight) at week 24. There was a significant reduction from baseline values at weeks 12 and 24 in body mass index, anthropometric measurements, and fat mass and improvement in diet behavior and psychosocial and physical functioning, while lean mass and blood albumin and hemoglobin levels were maintained. A correlation analysis showed that a greater weight loss was importantly (r>0.4) associated with a greater reduction in total cholesterol at weeks 12 and 24 and in systolic and diastolic blood pressure at week 24. Several factors were important (r>0.4 or r<-0.4) in determining the success in weight loss, including age, race, marital and employment status, family history of overweight/obesity, level and duration of injury, and cholesterol level at baseline.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first demonstration that a carefully planned program with time-calorie displacement diet is effective for overweight/obese individuals with SCI to lose weight without compromising total lean mass and overall health. It provides foundation for a future large clinical trial for weight loss of persons with SCI or other spinal cord dysfunction.