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Cash is king for dieters who need an incentive to lose weight

A new study found that people are more likely to lose weight (and more of it) if they have a financial incentive.
A new study found that people are more likely to lose weight (and more of it) if they have a financial incentive.
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Dieting is hard! Of course, if you drop a few pounds, you'll feel better and you'll improve your overall health.

Still, the hope of good feelings and better health might not quell those urges to gobble down donuts and french fries.

But maybe cash will.

According to a study from the Mayo Clinic, people who got money for losing weight shed more pounds than those without a financial incentive. The paid dieters also were more likely to stick to a weight loss program than those who weren't.

Lose weight, make money

The study was conducted using 100 Mayo employees and their family members. Every participant had to be ages 18-to-63 and considered obese by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standards.

The test pool was split into four groups; two received money for dieting, while the other two didn't.

Dieters in the financial incentive groups who met their goals got $20 per month. The people who didn't meet their targets had to pay $20 into a bonus pool.

While other studies have tested this cash-for-weight-loss theory over short periods of time, the Mayo study observed participants for a year and saw significant differences between the test groups.

In the incentive groups, the average weight loss was slightly more than nine pounds and 62 percent completed the entire study.

For those not getting paid, only 26 percent finished the study. Their average weight loss? Only 2.3 pounds.

Looking for "creative ways" to inspire weight loss

"Traditional therapies are not working for a lot of people, so people are looking for creative ways to help people lose weight and keep it off," said senior study author and physician Donald Hensrud. "The results of this study show the potential of financial incentives."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a third of all Americans are obese. In L.A. County, these numbers aren't much better, and they seem to be on an upward swing.

According to data the L.A. County Department of Health released last year, L.A.'s adult obesity rate increased by 74 percent over the past 14 years—meaning almost 24 percent of adults in the County are obese.

The numbers get even bleaker for South L.A., which has the second highest obesity rate in the county: nearly 33 percent of adults.

Finding new ways to encourage people to lose weight and stay healthy may not only help save lives, but cut back local and national spending on healthcare. Forbes Magazine reported last year that obesity is costing America $190 billion a year, surpassing even smoking in terms of healthcare costs.