Want to Lose Weight? Leave it Up to Your Smartphone

Researchers find using a smartphone app to shed pounds may help dieters stay on track.

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There’s an app for practically everything now, and the latest study shows that when it comes to weight loss, some apps may be more effective than traditional dieting methods. 

Smartphones are an ideal way to communicate and remind people of everything from to-do lists to food and fitness goals, so researchers in the UK decided to investigate how effective weight loss apps alone might be in helping people to shed pounds.

The University of Leeds scientists, funded by a grant from the UK’s National institute or Health Research, worked with software developers Blueberry Consultants to create My Meal Mate, an app that helps users track their food intake and exercise as well as set weight loss goals. The app sends users reminder text messages each week about their progress.

For the study, published in the Journal of Internet Medical Research, the researchers recruited 128 overweight volunteers and split them into three groups for a six month study period. The first group relied on the My Meal Mate app, the second an online food diary and the final group used a paper version of a food diary.

(MORE: The Secrets to Weight Loss: Keep a Food Journal, Don’t Skip Meals, Eat In)

At the end of six months, the researchers measured changes inthe participants’ weight, as well as their compliance with their assigned weight loss management tool. On average, participants those relying on the online weight loss website and the paper food diary made entries about once a week, the smartphone app users relied on their weight loss helper every other day. Over the six month study period, the app users lost an average of 10 lbs., the paper diary users lost 6.5 lbs. and the website users lost about 3 lbs.

Previous research showed that food diaries can be an effective way of helping people to keep track of what they eat throughout a day in order to remind them of how many total calories they’re consuming. And numerous apps already help dieters to stay on top of these tallies digitally. My Meal Mate, however, is the first to incorporate a large national food database known as Weight Loss Resources that’s likely to provide calorie and nutrition information on any of the foods that UK residents are likely to encounter — at the grocery store, in restaurants and in cafeterias. The app is also available for free on the UK’s National Health Service Choices website.

“Whilst we wouldn’t expect people to use My Meal Mate daily for the rest of their lives, it gives them the skills and education to monitor their diet themselves – to have a better understanding of portion sizes, nutritional content and the effect of exercise,” said lead study author Michelle Carter, from the University of Leeds in a statement.

(MORE: South By Southwest (SXSW): Will Collecting Data on Your Body Make You Healthier?)

Other weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers have their own smartphone apps, as well as online interactive elements that connect users with other dieters for motivation and support. Studies show that such communities can be important sources of inspiration for not only losing weight but maintaining healthy lifestyles.

At this year’s South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival, for example, health and fitness tracking emerged as a major theme, with sophisticated body-tracking gadgets like BodyMedia — a device that measures calories burn, physical activity and sleep efficiency — showcasing their popular products. “[The measurements] manifests itself into accuracy, personalization and more of a health orientation. We are more than an activity tracker or fitness device, we are actually a health management tool,” BodyMedia CEOChristine Robins told TIME. Robins got her start developing products for the medical research sector, before moving into consumer-based fitness products. Robins said her company is considering expanding its products beyond fitness tracking to include devices that help people with chronic conditions such as diabetes to have a better handle on their glucose and insulin levels.

MORE: Calorie vs. Calorie: Study Evaluates Three Diets for Staying Slim

What’s encouraging about the current research is that the app alone helped dieters to lose more weight than those relying on paper or digital diaries, possibly because apps are more accessible and convenient for people to use. With so many people glued to their smartphones now, it could make sense to tap that technology to promote healthy behaviors, say the researchers. They hope their findings lead to more comparative trials of different smartphone apps for weight loss to determine which techniques are the most effective in helping dieters to shed pounds.

12 comments
DerrellDJenkins
DerrellDJenkins

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MannyStevens
MannyStevens

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EmmaWard
EmmaWard

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baybreezetours
baybreezetours

I went online to the UK site. After much searching I found out that the app is only for Android phones. Did anyone find out if there is an apple ap (ios app). Thanks

Tread_Reviews
Tread_Reviews

I started using a weight loss app to keep track of all the food I was eating and even got motivated to start exercising. I love weight loss apps! 

thewholetruth
thewholetruth

1. We are all insulin resistant now due to food chemicals

2. We are insulin resistant because many get rich of food chemicals
3. Millions are living insulin resistant and do not know it, due to everyday foods
4. We have been poisoned by artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrups and other FDA food chemicals

5.Reverse insulin resistant and you lose the weight and diabetes without drugs 

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mkb
mkb

Working, Eating and Walking are the only voluntary activities of any Beings. this is true even for humans. Our evolution has created an equilibrium to sustain life. Any variations in this triad causes diseases. we have perfected working and eating but working pattern has changed form Physical to mental. the evolution has never imagined the changing pattern in this triad. The pattern is changing so fast body is not able to cope up as a result we fall into the trap of Diseases. 

For good health walking is also very important. Walking maintains the internal equilibrium of all Organs in our body. Muscles are the biggest storer and spenders of glucose and fat. Excess glucose and fat is the major cause of diseases. Hence right walking is very important to sustain a healthy life. Whether you like it or not you have to perfect.

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rockybarragan
rockybarragan

http://www.youtube.com/rockybarragan  I lost over 133 pounds and have kept it off for over 6 years. Check out my YouTube Channel where I post Healthy Recipes, Grocery Hauls, Fitness DVD Reviews and Personal Vlogs. Hope to see you there!

beanace
beanace

listen... it looks like apps are going to be here for the long run regarding weight loss...

i believe we are going to see a lot more from that area in the upcoming years...

you can check my blog to see more info regarding weight loss

http://www.getoffatstomach.com

mtngoatjoe
mtngoatjoe

I've been using Lose It! for a couple of months now. I had resisted my doctor's advice to count calories because I thought it would be a pain in the a$$. But the reality has been far different. Scanning a barcode makes logging food super easy.

I've been losing weight at a pretty good clip (almost 3 lbs a week) and I'm not starving myself. Not at 2500 calories a day! I haven't given up any of the foods I like, but tracking calories definitely highlights poor choices. I'm eating better simply because I can see what poor choices will do to my goal.

And like I said, I don't avoid the foods I like, I simply eat less of them. It's really much easier than I thought it would be.