A three-week balneotherapy program resulted in significant long-term reductions in Body Mass Index (BMI) and weight among overweight or obese people, according to peer-reviewed research.

The study, “One-Year Effectiveness of a 3-Week Balneotherapy Program for the Treatment of Overweight or Obesity,” involved 257 people with a mean age of about 50 years and a BMI greater than 27 and less than or equal to 35.

Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either the three-week balneotherapy program or usual care from their general practitioner for overweight or obese patients. The usual care consisted of verbal and written advice, along with a brochure on healthy eating. Subjects in the usual care group were advised to reduce calories, fat and alcohol; increase fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake; and incorporate low-intensity, long-duration physical activity into their daily lives.

Participants in the three-week balneotherapy program spent 21 days at one of five French balneotherapy resorts, where they received 18 daily sessions of balneotherapy, such as individual mineral water bubble bathing, mineral water manual massages, mud body wraps, mineral water pool supervised exercises and drinking of resort mineral waters. According to the researchers, the mineral waters at these resorts were primarily sulfate and bicarbonate.

Besides the daily balneotherapy sessions, dietitians and personal trainers provided the subjects with nutrition and exercise counseling, but exercising and reducing calories was not mandatory during the three-week program.

Primary and secondary outcome measures for this study were BMI and weight loss approximately one year after the balneotherapy and usual care had been delivered. The BMI and weight of each of the 257 subjects were assessed at baseline, then again seven months and 14 months after the balneotherapy or usual care intervention.

Analyzing the data, researchers found subjects who attended the three-week balneotherapy program experienced a significant mean BMI loss of 1.91 at the 14-month follow-up, whereas those who received the usual care for overweight and obesity showed at 0.2 reduction in BMI. Mean weight loss at the 14-month follow-up was 5.17 kilograms, which equates to about 11.6 pounds, for those in the balneotherapy group and 0.54 kilograms, which equates to about 1.3 pounds, for those who received usual care.

“The effectiveness of [the three-week balneotherapy program] on weight loss is similar to the results obtained by drug treatment, commercial weight management programs and comprehensive lifestyle modification programs,” state the study’s authors. “However, a key advantage of the three-week [balneotherapy] program is the shorter duration of the active phase.”


Authors: Thierry Hanh, Patrick Serog, Jérôme Fauconnier, Pierre Batailler, Florence Mercier, Christian F. Roques and Patrick Blin.

Sources: Pôle Santé Publique, Grenoble, France; Stat Process, Port Mort, France, Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France; and Service de Pharmacologie, Université Bordeaux Ségalen, Bordeaux Cedex, France. Originally published in 2012 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.