PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Financial incentive programs to help obese people lose weight apparently do not work, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania.

The new study finds workplace programs that financially reward obese people for losing weight are ineffective.

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In the study, 197 obese participants were enrolled in a workplace wellness program and given a weight loss goal equivalent to five percent of their weight at enrollment.

Researchers say participants were then randomly assigned to a control arm with no financial incentive for achieving the goal, or one of three intervention arms, each offering an incentive valued at $550.

Two of the arms used health insurance premium adjustments.

Participants in the third intervention group were entered into a daily lottery incentive.

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Researchers say a year after enrollment, results of the study showed no significant changes in average weight loss for participants in any of the four groups.

Additionally, researchers found the lower insurance premiums are often delayed and hidden in paychecks.

“More than 80 percent of large employers use financial incentives for health promotion. Many use health insurance premium adjustments, but these incentives are often delayed and, even when they aren’t, they are typically hidden in paychecks along with other deductions and payments. That makes them less noticeable,” said Mitesh Patel, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine and Health Care Management at in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School.

“Our findings suggest that employers should consider testing designs alternative to the $550 premium-based incentives used in this study.”

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