From the Journals

Web-based lifestyle program aids in weight loss for NAFLD patients



A web-based intervention for management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – which researchers said may help reach busy or remote patients not able to attend in-person sessions – had a similar number of patients reach a target weight-loss goal of at least 10% of body weight, compared with a group-based intervention.

“The use of web education in the management of noncommunicable diseases has long been suggested, considering the huge number of cases at risk and patients’ needs,” wrote Arianna Mazzotti, MD, of the department of medical and surgical sciences, Alma Mater University, Bologna, Italy, and her colleagues. Their report was published in the Journal of Hepatology.

“The majority of cases are in an age range where job constraints make it difficult to implement a systematic face-to-face or group approach, whereas the eHealth procedures may keep the contact between patients and therapists without disrupting normal daily living.”

Dr. Mazzotti and her colleagues studied 716 patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) at the university between January 2010 and December 2015 who attended either a web-based NAFLD intervention (278 patients) or an in-person, group-based lifestyle modification program (438 patients). Patients in the web-based intervention tended to be younger males with a higher education level, similar mean body mass index (33 kg/m2), and significantly lower blood pressure and rates of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The primary outcome included weight loss of at least 10%; secondary outcomes included changes in weight, changes in lifestyle, surrogate markers of steatosis and fibrosis, and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) within normal limits, researchers said.

The group-based program consisted of five 2-hour weekly sessions counseling patients on diet and physical activity, whereas the web-based intervention reproduced these sessions in addition to questionnaires, “highly interactive” slides, examples, and games as well as a mechanism to ask questions. Regardless of intervention, patients attended a 6-month in-person follow-up where they received treatment and reinforcement for comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes mellitus.

In the web-based intervention, 76% of patients attended the 6-month follow-up, 58% attended the 12-month follow-up, and 43% attended the 24-month follow-up, compared with 87%, 80%, and 69% of patients in the group-based intervention, respectively. Patients in the web-based intervention had a significantly decreased intake of calories after 6 months (273 kcal/day vs. 193 kcal/day; P = .006) compared with the group-based intervention. Physical activity significantly increased at 6 months for both groups, but there were no significant differences between groups.

Body weight decreased for the web-based intervention by 3.4% at 6 months, 4.9% at 12 months, and 5.5% at 24 months, compared with 3.1% at 6 months, 4.0% at 12 months, and 4.2% at 24 months in the group-based intervention. There was a nearly two-point reduction in body mass index for both groups, with 20% of web-based intervention patients and 15% of group-based intervention patients achieving the 10% weight-loss target; and, when the researchers performed a logistic regression analysis, the web-based intervention group was not associated with less short- and long-term 10% weight reduction after attrition rates and confounders were adjusted for.

At 24-month follow-up, the researchers found a decrease in ALT levels by an average of 22 ± 32 mU/mL, with the web-based intervention group having normalized ALT levels in 18% of cases at 6 months, 32% at 12 months, and 35% at 24 months, compared with 16% of cases at 6 months, 22% of cases at 12 months, and 29% of cases at 24 months in the group-based intervention. Compared with the group-based intervention, there was a higher reduction in fatty liver index scores at 12-month follow-up (71.3 vs. 78.0; P less than .001) and 24-month follow-up (68.9 vs. 76.3; P = .002) for the web-based intervention group. The researchers noted NAFLD fibrosis score and Fib-4 scores were reduced in both groups.

“The [web-based intervention] program might be extended to other units and/or general practitioners, increasing its impact in the community in prevention and treatment of progressive NAFLD,” Dr. Mazzotti and her colleagues wrote. “It might also be superimposed to drug treatment in the most severe cases, with possible additive effects.”

This study was supported by a grant from the European Community Seventh Framework Program. The authors report no relevant conflicts of interest.

*This story was updated on 10/4/2018.

SOURCE: Mazzotti A et al. J Hepatol. 2018 Oct 2. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2018.07.013.

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