Young women are at high risk of weight gain. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate randomized controlled trials of weight management interventions specifically targeting young women. Nine databases were searched for randomized controlled trials conducted from 1980 to December 2011 that recruited women aged 18 to 35 years, evaluated a weight management intervention, and reported weight as the primary outcome. Eight studies of moderate to poor quality met the inclusion criteria. Three interventions were specifically designed for young women and compared behavioral weight gain prevention interventions to control groups. Four of the five remaining studies evaluated weight gain prevention interventions, including daily weighing with feedback (n=2), a science course (n=1), and an exercise programs (n=1). The single weight loss intervention lowered the energy density of the participants' diet (n=1). Intervention lengths ranged from 4 weeks to 1 year, and only three studies followed-up with participants after the intervention. Retention rates ranged from 54% to 100% at post-intervention follow-up, with over half of the studies' retention rates <80%. Five studies reported significant differences in weight change in the intervention group (−1.9 kg to +0.1 kg) compared with controls (−0.2 kg to +3.1 kg) after the intervention. The available evidence suggests weight management interventions targeting young women are limited in number and quality and are highly heterogeneous. Therefore, their overall effectiveness cannot be established at this time. High-quality randomized controlled trials evaluating interventions that are tailored to the unique needs of young women, and that can be disseminated broadly, are urgently needed to address the unmet needs of this high-risk group.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Vol. 113, Issue 6, p. 795-802