Objective: To evaluate the incremental cost of and health benefits attributable to medical nutrition therapy (MNT) for managed care members participating in an obesity-related health management program.
Design: Retrospective case-control.
Methodology: Overweight or obese adult managed care members who utilized the MNT benefit (n=291) were matched, using propensity score matching, with similar individuals (n=1,104) who did not utilize the MNT benefit. Health outcomes data on weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and physical exercise were collected via surveys administered at baseline and approximately 2 years later.
Principal findings: Both groups experienced statistically significant reductions in weight, BMI, and waist circumference and increases in exercise frequency. Compared with matched controls, individuals who received MNT were about twice as likely to achieve a clinically significant reduction in weight, with an adjusted odds ratio of 2.2 (95% confidence interval, –1.7–2.9; P<.001). They also experienced greater average reductions in weight (3.1 vs. 1.4 kg; β = –1.75; t = –2.21; P=.028) and were more likely to exercise more frequently after participating in the program (F[1,1358] = 4.07, P=.044). There was no difference between the groups in waist circumference. The MNT benefit was used by 5% of eligible members and cost $0.03 per member per month.
Conclusion: MNT is a valuable adjunct to health management programs that can be implemented for a relatively low cost. MNT warrants serious consideration as a standard inclusion in health benefit plans.