Telephone counseling can help obese patients with sustainable weight loss, researchers said in a statement on Monday.

A study by Johns Hopkins Medicine and Healthways found that a new weight-loss program helped around 40 percent of participants lose at least five percent of their body weight over the course of two years.

Participants received weekly phone calls from health coaches for three months, and then once a month thereafter in the Practice-Based Opportunities for Weight Reduction trial. Obese patients were encouraged to repeatedly sign in to an interactive website that offered tools to track weight and to provide regular feedback via email.

Healthways also developed data collection and intervention websites for lifestyle coaches who delivered the intervention over the phone as part of the POWER study.

The POWER study also tested in-person instead of telephone counseling for obese patients and found that although in-person counseling also showed promising results, the patients start off strong but then stop attending in-person sessions.

“In most weight-loss studies, there is a lot of emphasis on frequent, in-person counseling sessions, but from a logistical perspective, in-person interventions are challenging for both patients and counselors,” study author Lawrence Appel, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in a statement.

“The telephonic coaching and web-based program, on the other hand, is convenient to individuals and can be done anywhere,” Appel added.

Researchers also said that results in the POWER trial were promising because they were able to find a practical way to keep weight off for a long period of time.

“Most other studies show maximal effect at six months but few demonstrate maintenance over one year, let alone two years as in POWER,” said Frederick Brancati, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicin and co-author of the study in a statement.

“Our objective now is to share this proven tool with thousands more who struggle with their weight. Historically, the translation of population health science to practice can take many years to accomplish. With this collaboration, we will quickly be able to make this intervention available to large numbers of people who can benefit,” Brancati added.

Johns Hopkins University and Healthways, a health and well-being improvement company, have collaborated in developing the Innergy TM, a commercially available version of the call center-directed weight-loss program which features telephone coaching and a specially designed website that help overweight or obese patients lose weight.

“We believe that Innergy now offers a proven solution to the obesity challenge, particularly given the recent decision of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide reimbursement for physician-directed weight-management counseling services. We are pleased to be able to offer this scientifically validated program to so many more people who can benefit from it,” Ben Leedle, president and CEO of Healthways said in a statement.