Mobile devices that let people track how much they eat and exercise may help them shed weight over and above the benefits of a typical weight-loss program, according to a U.S. study.
Researchers writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine
found that overweight and obese adults lost an average of over eight pounds (3.6 kilograms) more when they had personal digital assistants (PDAs) and occasional phone coaching to help them, in addition to a group program.
There's no reason to think the same wouldn't hold true for smart phone apps that can log nutrition and activity information, and give real time feedback, they said.
"The number one mechanism through which people lost weight is self-monitoring, just watching what you eat and keeping a record of it," said Goutham Rao, who wrote a commentary published with the new study.
Rao, from the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois, noted that programs for mobile devices are easily personalized, and readily available wherever people carry their phones or PDAs.
After six months in the trial, people in the PDA group had lost an average of almost 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and 41 percent of them had met the goal of losing at least five percent of their initial body weight.
"I'm actually very optimistic that people who are motivated, who can couple the technology with in-person counseling and management, are going to be very successful," he told Reuters Health.
The benefits of using an app on a mobile device, Rao said, are that it can be cheaper and widely available, and can help re-engage people who are having trouble, unlike an in-person program with a specific end date.