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Can Smart Mobile Devices Help Lose Weight?

Posted Jul 07 2013 10:32pm
Being obese or overweight is no longer an individual issue. It has become a serious global health crisis. In the United States alone, it is estimated that nearly 68 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, and 5 to 10 percent of all healthcare costs in the United States are devoted to dealing with obesity related diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

Technology has been accused as a culprit among many other factors responsible for obesity epidemic. But recently, a group of researchers from various institutions including the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found that mobile devices that enable people to track how much they eat and exercise might help them lose weight.

Their findings, which were published on January 28, 2013 in the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’, reported that overweight and obese adults could lose an average of over 3.6 kilos more when they had personal digital assistants (PDAs) and occasional phone coaching to assist them, in addition to a group program.
69 overweight and obese people, who were in their late 50s and were referred to a Veterans Affairs clinic for weight-loss support, participated in the study.
Over a trial period of 6 months, the participants were enrolled in 12 group sessions that focused on nutrition, exercise and behavioral changes to promote weight loss. Half of the participants were given a PDA to record their food and activity throughout the day and there was a coach who was in contact with them by phone.
At the end of the trial period, those in the PDA group had lost an average of almost 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) and 41 percent of these participants had met the goal of losing at least 5 percent of their initial body weight. In comparison, those not in the PDA group had lost an average of 2 pounds (1 kilo) and only 11 percent of them had achieved the weight loss goal.
The most important thing about weight loss is self-monitoring - watch and keep a record of what is eaten. App (program) on a mobile device is cheaper and can easily be personalized. It can not only help people keep track of their eating habit but also help re-engage people who have trouble. Moreover, it can widely be available whenever people carry their mobile phones or PDAs.
While PDAs are mostly not in use nowadays, the emergence of smart phones such as iPhone, Android and Window phones can serve almost the same purpose. In the United States, smartphone usages continued to climb and more than 61 percent of mobile subscribers owned a smartphone.
Nevertheless, there is evidence that apps on mobile devices alone do not have much of an impact. Hence, experts believe that technology can only be used as an aid to help from a doctor or nutritionist.
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