Students make good candidates for diet cola weight loss study

The School of Medicine’s Center for Obesity Research and Education is conducting a study in which participants will be compensated for drinking fortified diet cola daily.

After entering college, poor dietary and exercising habits and excessive beer consumption, can cause many students to worry about gaining the “freshman 15.”

A recent study conducted by Washington University in St. Louis showed that 70 percent of students gained a “significant amount of weight” during their first two years of college.

To combat obesity issues on a local level, the Center for Obesity Research and Education, which is associated with Temple’s School of Medicine, is currently conducting a study involving Temple students’ weight.

The program is seeking men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 who have daily access to the Internet and are willing to drink three fortified diet colas on a daily basis for 12 weeks.  Participants cannot have diabetes or smoke and should be able to complete four study visits throughout the course of 12 weeks.

There are currently 56 people enrolled in the study, but researchers are looking to attain 168 people. A large portion of those enrolled are affiliated with Temple, but the study is open to anyone who meets the requirements.

 Participants receive three $50 check cards once enrolled in the study, for a total compensation of $150.
Ben Frommer, a sophomore journalism and political science major, said he plans on looking into the experiment. He said the compensation aspect of the study is particularly appealing.

“It’s hard to see the downside in getting $150 for drinking something, especially if it makes you healthier,” Frommer said.

The study may involve drinking a 12-ounce can of a fortified diet cola beverage three times daily. The beverage contains green tea extract and 10 grams of fiber per can. 

The soda also contains 100 milligrams of caffeine, unlike most sodas, which contain approximately 35 milligrams per 12-ounce can.

“Taste-wise, it is very similar to a diet cola,” said Tracy Oliver, Ph.D., the project director.

The study will evaluate whether a fortified diet cola will help people lose weight and determine the amount of fat and muscle changes in the body that will occur as a result of the components in the experiment.

“It is also to evaluate the potential benefit of including a fortified diet cola in a series of Web-based weight loss lessons that discuss nutrition, physical activity and changing food and activity behaviors,” said project coordinator Caitlin LaGrotte.

Some students are skeptical of the study, like freshman international business major Deirdre Kurtz. 
“If I were trying to lose weight, that doesn’t seem like a very healthy way to do it,” Kurtz said.  “What are you going to do, drink that [cola] for the rest of your life?”

The study is divided into four treatment groups, which consist of a basic lifestyle information group, a structured lifestyle information group, basic lifestyle information with a fortified diet cola group and structured lifestyle information with a fortified diet cola group. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of these four treatment groups.

All groups will be given diet and lifestyle information via the Internet and structured groups will be provided with more in-depth material. 

The participants in the structured lifestyle information groups will receive a lesson about a particular topic each week and then take a quiz following the weekly lesson plan. 

“One week might focus on cravings or social events or other behavior modification strategies,” Oliver said.

The basic lifestyle information groups are given all dieting instructions and information up front. 
“We give them the tools to be able to do it on their own,” Oliver said.

The program will last approximately 12 weeks and requires participants to come to the research center four times throughout the period.  Height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, weight circumference and body composition will all be measured. 

A demographic questionnaire and physical activity questionnaire will be given at the beginning of the study. Another physical activity questionnaire and an exit program questionnaire will be administered at the end.

Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston and the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England, are also conducting it. 

“Temple has demonstrated the ability to recruit and effectively administer a weight loss study,” Oliver said.

Grace Dickinson can be reached at

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