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Participants in an online weight loss program can improve diet quality during weight loss: a randomized controlled trial

Kate M O’Brien1, Melinda J Hutchesson12, Megan Jensen12, Philip Morgan12, Robin Callister12 and Clare E Collins12*

Author Affiliations

1 University of Newcastle, 2308 Callaghan, NSW, Australia

2 Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, 2308 Callaghan, NSW, Australia

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Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:82  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-82

Published: 9 August 2014



Better diet quality has been associated with less weight gain over time. However, few studies have examined the role of diet quality during weight loss. This study aimed to compare changes in diet quality in overweight/obese adults during a weight loss intervention, and determine whether an association between diet quality score and weight loss exists.


Overweight or obese (BMI 25-40 kg/m2) adults, aged 18–60 years, were recruited from the Hunter Region of NSW, Australia and randomized to one of three groups: a standard online weight loss program (n = 94); an enhanced version of this online program that provided additional personalized feedback and reminders (n = 98); or a wait-list control group (n = 97). Diet quality was calculated using the Australian Recommended Food Score (ARFS) with dietary data from the Australian Eating Survey (AES) Food Frequency Questionnaire at baseline and 12-weeks.


The basic and enhanced groups lost significantly more weight than the control group after 12 weeks (basic -2.2 ± 3.4 kg, enhanced -3.0 ± 4.0 kg, control 0.4 ± 2.4 kg, P < 0.001) with no difference between the basic and enhanced groups. The mean change in ARFS in the enhanced group (2.2 ± 5.7) was significantly higher (P = 0.03) than the control group. There were no significant differences in change in ARFS between the enhanced and basic, or basic and control groups. The ARFS and the fruit, meat, wholegrain, dairy and water sub-scale scores at 12 weeks were significantly associated with greater weight loss (P < 0.05).


Diet quality improved significantly in the enhanced group compared to controls following 12-weeks intervention. Furthermore, higher diet quality was associated with greater weight loss.

Trial Registration


Diet quality; Index; Score; Weight loss; Intervention