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Money Talks Dieters into Losing Weight

Update Date: Mar 07, 2013 12:56 PM EST

Money talks - at least when dieters need to lose weight. It doesn't need to be a large amount of money either. The risk of paying $20 if a person fails to meet their weight-loss goals of four pounds or the lure of receiving $20 may be enough.

Those are the findings of a study by the Mayo Clinic. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, 100 overweight employees were enrolled in the study, but not as an employer program. The employees were divided into four groups. Two had a financial incentive like the one listed above, while two did not. As Health Day reports, all had a component that was educational, while another had a regimented behavioral plan in addition.

All of the participants were asked to lose four pounds a month for a time period that depended on their weight at the beginning of the study. In the financial incentive group, if they met the goal, they received a voucher for $20 that could be redeemed at the end of the study. If they did not, they needed to pay $20 into a sort-of bank. People in the financial incentive group also had the chance to win money at the end of the study, where they had met their goals or not. They also earned the chance to win $10 a month and lottery "tickets" if they attended monthly weigh-ins and texted their study leaders with their weight loss each week. In total, people could have lost a total of $240, or won a total of $360.

The cash incentives appeared to make a big difference, as people with the financial incentives stayed in the study longer and lost more weight. In total, 62 percent of the people with financial incentives, while 26 percent of the people without them stayed in the study. In addition, the people in the cash incentives group lost an average of nine pounds, while people without these incentives lost an average of 2.3 pounds.

Many large employers - about 86 percent - offer similar programs to encourage healthy habits among employees. According to the study, that appears to be a good idea.

The question remains how long these benefits will last. Some reports suggest that people often revert to old habits once the financial incentives disappear.

In addition, some experts point out that many people need to lose more than nine pounds in order to make a difference with their health.

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