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Monday, May 13, 2013

Can an App help you lose weight?

There are many apps available that help one track food eaten, calories, exercise but can these apps really help you lose weight?  Well researchers at Northwestern University decided to find out.  There study showed that people using a weight-loss regimen along with a mobile app that tracked food eaten and activity resulted in an average weight loss of 15 pounds.  Not only did the subjects in the study lose weight, they kept the weight off for at least a year. 

The study focused on 69 overweight and obese adults about 58 years of age, mostly men.  Twice a month they were provided health education classes on nutrition, exercise and behavior changes for six months.  Then for six months the classes were once a month. 

Each subject was given a weekly calorie goal based on their weight and a weekly activity goal based on their current activity level. 

What was different between the experimental and control group was that one group kept a written record of what they ate and their exercise.  The second group used a mobile app to send their food and activity records to a coach.  The coach then provided regularly scheduled telephone coaching for 10-15 minutes twice a month and offered personal recommendations to each subject.      

So who lost weight?  The people who attended the health education classes but no mobile app, lost NOTHING.  Those who attended most of the health education classes and used the mobile app lost 15 pounds and maintained this loss for a year. The average weight loss for the mobile app group including those who didn't attend classes was 8.6 pounds.  Thus, the most successful group attended the health classes and used the mobile app. 

So was it the app or the coach who called them twice a month?  The researchers noted the coaches were supportive but did hold each person accountable.  Thus, the subjects knew someone cared but also someone was watching. 

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