Mobile phone technology can be used to enhance the effect of weight-loss programs, research shows.
"Technology offers new channels to reconfigure the provision of effective components of behavioral weight loss treatment (ie, self-monitoring, goal setting, lifestyle counseling, and in-person sessions)," say Bonnie Spring (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, USA) and team.
The technology can augment the effects of physician-directed weight-loss programs by enabling individuals to send data to a behavioral coach who can then schedule appointments for telephone guidance accordingly, they add.
In a 12-month study of 69 individuals aged a mean of 57.7 years with a mean body mass index of 36 kg/m2, those randomly allocated to receive standard care plus assistive mobile technology (mobile group) lost a mean 3.9 kg more than those who received standard care alone (standard care group), at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months post baseline. There was no significant variance in treatment effect across time.
The proportion of individuals in the mobile versus standard care groups who lost 5% or more of their baseline weight at 3 months was 37% versus 0%, respectively, and 41% versus 11% at 6 months, 33% versus 10% at 9 months, and 30% versus 15% at 12 months.
As reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, standard care involved attending biweekly 1.5-hour educational sessions that provided information on nutrition, physical activity, and behavior change. Individuals in the mobile group used their phones to record their daily food intake, which was automatically converted to caloric intake to aid self-monitoring of energy consumption. In addition, a behavioural coach phoned these participants every 2 weeks and offered individualized guidance based on the data they had uploaded.
"The current study demonstrated the feasibility of using mobile connective technology to interface with a hospital-based, standard-of-care weight loss treatment," say Spring et al.
"By enabling trained paraprofessionals to provide highly personalized treatment remotely, at reduced cost and participant burden, connective technology systems can help to ease the burden on strained care systems," concludes the team.
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