Thursday, March 14, 2019

Weight Off: Free Food Tracking App Helps Overweight People Lose Up To 6 Pounds

Up to 6 pounds of weight comes off with free food tracking app

Weight loss just became less challenging due to modern technology in the form of a free food tracking smartphone app call MyFitnessPal. This exciting discovery was made by Duke university scientists who found overweight persons lost up to 6 pounds when they tracked their daily food intake. Best of all, this weight loss was accomplished without a particular diet.

Duke University Psychology Professor Gary Bennett, researcher in the project, explained that Americans are now using free and low cost weight loss apps to manage their weight. In spite of this however, there was no evidence to show whether or not these apps worked very well. Their ground breaking research now shows that commercial smartphone apps can be useful in weight loss.

The research findings suggest that it is possible to lose weight effectively through low cost tools, rather than through expensive in-person interventions. This should be a comforting thought for persons who want to lose weight but do not have the money to pay for expensive services like gym memberships.

Reasons for this weight loss study

Michele Lanpher Patel, a co researcher on the project explained that the study was conducted to identify a lower-intensity treatment for weight loss that people could use from the comfort of their home. However, Patel further explained that the researchers were not sure how much weight people would lose with this type of remote treatment. The success of the research was based on a merger of  behavioral science principles and technology.

Patel further explained that everyone does not have the time for high-intensity weight-loss treatments and that alternative strategies should be created for these people.


how to lose weight with food tracking app on

Details about the dietless weight loss study

The study was a randomized control trial which involved 105  participants aged 21 to 65 years. A smartphone app called MyFitnessPal was used to track dietary intake. Participants were divided into three groups:

Group 1 tracked food intake daily for three months, while Group 2  tracked their weight for a month, then began logging food intake as well.  Group 2 also received emails with tailored feedback, weekly lessons on nutrition and behavior change, and action plans describing how to implement the weekly lesson.

Group 3 recorded both their weight and food intake for  three months, using the same app as the first two groups. They also received weekly lessons, action plans and feedback. For instance, weekly nutrition lessons included tips on topics such as reducing sugary foods and portion control.

Results showed that participants lost up to 6 pounds

Three months after the study began, participants in all three groups had lost clinically significant amounts of weight. Those who only tracked what they ate lost about 5 pounds on average. People in the second group lost about 6 pounds on average.

Members of Group 3 lost about 6 pounds on average. This group had recorded their weight and food intake for 12 weeks, and received weekly lessons, action plans and feedback. However, participants in that group kept the weight off longer. At six months, people in the third group had lost nearly 7 pounds on average.

MyFitnessPal App on Google Play


Click the image for food tracker apps on Google Play

Consistent food and weight tracking is key in the weight loss journey

The researchers found that successful participants in all three groups actually kept a food log. Those who were most diligent in tracking each day lost the most weight. By contrast, past research has shown that people often start with a goal of recording their food intake, but fail to continue over time.

Researchers concluded that  two main factors helped participants follow through on their weight-loss goals. The first was helping participants to set specific goals, including tailored calorie targets, while the second was the automatic in-app reminders to log meals each day.

According to researcher Bennett,

“We have very strong evidence that consistent tracking, particularly of diet, but also one’s weight, is an essential element of successful weight loss… consumers should look for apps that make it easy for them to track on a consistent basis.”

While the study used a free, commercially available app called MyFitnessPal, researchers said that similar results could possibly be achieved by using another diet tracker.

The research was supported by grants from the American Psychological Association and the Duke Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center, and by the Aleane Webb Dissertation Research Award from the Graduate School at Duke University.


Materials provided by Duke University.
Michele L Patel, Christina M Hopkins, Taylor L Brooks, Gary G Bennett. Comparing Self-Monitoring Strategies for Weight Loss in a Smartphone App: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 2019; 7 (2): e12209 DOI: 10.2196/12209


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