Evaluation of a Weight Loss Program in Patients with Mental Illness

  • 1 January 2016
  • Petra_1

group weight loss

Mortality in bipolar patients is higher than in the general population mainly because of weight gain. But there is hope! Weight loss is achievable.

Since we have already talked a lot about the benefits of lifestyle intervention programs for weight loss in people with serious mental illnesses, I thought it would be worthwhile to understand the research behind it. Information on such trials and reports will help the community of bipolar patients to understand that there is hope for us overweight bipolars, as effective weight loss programs do exist, and they can truly benefit us.

A study by Dr Daumit showed that patients with serious mental illness lost weight effectively in 18 months through a behavioral weight loss intervention.

Study: A Behavioural Weight-Loss Intervention in Persons with Serious Mental Illness

According to the study “A Behavioural Weight-Loss Intervention in Persons with Serious Mental Illness “ published in New England Journal of Medicine, the rate of deaths amongst patients who suffer from mental illnesses like Bipolar Disorder, severe depression and schizophrenia is about two to three times higher than in a non-mentally affected population in the States. In most of these cases, patients die primarily due to cardiovascular diseases which occur usually because of unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity. Also, this research placed three main reasons why very few people suffering from mental illnesses take care of their health:

  • Most of the mentally affected patients have problems in understanding and adopting new social behaviors. So teaching them to exercise and eat better is not very useful.
  • ost of these patients do not have enough socioeconomic means to engage in physical sports in gym etc. 
  • A lot of these patients are not motivated to workout in social places. They also desire very little interaction with other people, so they usually stay by themselves.

Details of the Study

So the study basically evaluated the effectiveness of a weight loss program on  a group of  mentally ill people, for a period of 18 months. The Institutional Review Board at Sheppard Pratt Health System and Johns Hopkins University approved the protocol for the trial of ACHIEVE (Achieving Healthy Lifestyles in Psychiatric Rehabilitation).

The study was set up in one of the psychiatric rehabilitation programs that usually offers vocational training to the patients. Usually at these programs, breakfasts and lunches are served by the staff. Patients were selected randomly, and all of them were over 18 years of age with a serious mental illness. Then they were divided randomly into two groups: the intervention group and the control group.

Treatment of Intervention Group

The intervention group attended group weight management sessions, individual weight management sessions and group exercise sessions. Their main goal was to reduce their intake of high calorie foods with high sugar content. They had to take five servings of vegetables and fruits every day, eat healthy snacks in smaller portions and engage in light aerobic exercises. 

Treatment of Control Group

The participants of the Control group received standard information on physical activities and nutrition. They were also provided health classes which focused on content unrelated to weight. 


Assessment tests were conducted at 6, 12 and 18 months. These involved measuring the participants’ body weight using high quality calibrated digital scales. Also, the amount of fast chemicals in blood, waistlines and blood pressure were also measured. 

The analysis of the results showed that participants in the intervention group fared much better, with their average weight falling down by at least 4 kgs (8.8 lb). They were active and none of them showed risks of cardiovascular disease. This proved that while educating bipolar people on the potential risks of obesity can help them to make healthier decisions, behavioral interventions via weight loss programs are much more effective in getting them lose weight and keep it off. 

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