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The best way to lose weight? The Biggest Loser may be on to something…

Contestants compete to lose weight on the NBC show The Biggest Loser

Mitchell Haaseth

Want to motivate your family members to lose weight? Forget pleading them to do it for health reasons. They're more likely to slim down if promised some cold, hard cash.

Last month, The Hot Button noted that a study conducted on Mayo Clinic employees showed people successfully shed extra pounds when money is at stake. Now, new research suggests people are even more likely to reach their weight-loss goals when they are pitted against one another for a share of the winnings.

According to Salon, researchers found that staff at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia were better able to stick to their monthly weight-loss goals when they were competing against their co-workers for cash.

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The study separated participants into two groups, an "individual incentive" group, in which each person had the opportunity to win $100 (U.S.) every month if they met their monthly targets, and a "group incentive" group, in which participants were matched against four other rivals for a guaranteed $500 pot, Salon reports. If all five were able to meet their weight-loss target, the pool was divided evenly among them. The winnings, however, would be only be shared among those who reached their goals, so the entire $500 payout could go to a single person if the others were unsuccessful.

Even though the hospital spent the same amount on both groups, the participants who were offered the "group incentive" fared much better. In six months, they lost an average of 10.6 pounds (4.8 kilograms), compared with the average 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg) lost by the "individual incentive" group, and were better able to maintain their slimmer physiques.

Salon suggests this kind of weight-loss competition could help employers and health insurers reduce companies' health care costs.

Already, a growing number of U.S. employers are experimenting with monetary and gift incentives to encourage their workers to adopt healthier habits, many of them inspired by the likes of television's The Biggest Loser reality program, The Wall Street Journal reports. If these tactics work for employers, could they work on a larger scale? Considering the high obesity rates in this country and the economic toll it takes, should the government start rewarding people for losing weight?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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