medwireNews: Research suggests that a smartphone application (My Meal Mate) that helps users monitor their diet and level of activity is more effective for promoting weight loss than use of a paper or website diary for the same purpose.
Michelle Clare Carter (University of Leeds, UK) and team recruited 128 overweight (body mass index [BMI] of 27 kg/m2 or above) volunteers to take part in a pilot study comparing the effects of different self-monitoring methods on weight loss, change in BMI, and change in body fat after 6 months.
The three methods compared were use of a smartphone plus My Meal Mate app (n=43); a written diary (n=43) provided with a calorie counting book and calculator; and a website-based diary (n=42) including access to weight loss information on the same website. All three groups were given access to a relevant internet forum for social support over the study period.
At 6 months, significantly more people were still using the smartphone app than the paper and website diaries, at 93% versus 53% and 55%, respectively. Over this period, the mean number of days that the participants used the three monitoring methods were a corresponding 92, 29, and 35 days.
The average weight loss at 6 months was significantly greater in the smartphone app group than in the paper and website diary groups, at 4.6 kg versus 2.9 kg and 1.3 kg, respectively.
Reduction in BMI was also greater in the smartphone app group at 6 months, at 1.6 kg/m2, compared with 1.0 kg/m2 and 0.5 kg/m2 in the paper and website diary groups, respectively. Likewise, the corresponding body fat reductions in the three groups at 6 months were 1.3%, 0.9%, and 0.5%.
"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 Carter in a press statement.
"The labelling on food packaging can help people to identify sensible food choices but it doesn't enable them to understand the cumulative effects of the foods they eat. Keeping a food diary allows us to see where we might be eating too much and the app has proved to be the most effective tracking method by far," added co-author of the Journal of Internet Medical Research study and fellow University of Leeds researcher Janet Cade.
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By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter