A person holding a smartphone over a plate of vegetables with text "Smartphone Apps for Weight Loss"

Pick up a phone, open an app. Record what foods were eaten today. A simple strategy to help lose weight, even without following a diet plan. Millions of people use smartphone apps that help track how many calories they consume daily, but do the apps really work?  

According to a study conducted by Duke University, overweight people who tracked daily food consumption using a smartphone app lost a significant amount of weight.  The researchers used a free app where dieters can record their daily food intake and weight. The study divided 105 participants, who were between 21 and 65 years old, into three groups. 

The participants were not instructed to follow a diet plan, but instead were given advice on healthy eating. They were asked to simply monitor what they ate. All three groups were asked to use the same app for tracking weight and food intake.

Group 1 – tracked what they ate every day for three months.

Group 2 – tracked their weight for a month, then began logging food intake as well. Group 2 also received emails with feedback, weekly lessons on nutrition and behavior change, and action plans to describe how to implement the weekly lessons.

Group 3 – recorded both weight and food intake for all three months. Group 3 also received weekly nutrition lessons, action plans, and feedback. The nutrition plans included tips on topics such as portion control and how to reduce sugary foods.

After three months, participants in all three groups had lost a significant amount of weight. Researchers noticed that compliance was the key to success: in all three groups, participants who most frequently tracked weight and food intake lost the most weight.

Most people use a cellphone every day, so why not download an app to track weight and food intake? All we have to lose is a few extra pounds.

 Source: Patel ML, Hopkins CM, Brooks TL, Bennett GG Comparing Self-Monitoring Strategies for Weight Loss in a Smartphone App: Randomized Controlled Trial JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2019;7(2): e12209 DOI: 10.2196/12209

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