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Evidence Summary

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Mobile technology may support weight loss in overweight or obese adults in the short term; but long term impact is unknown.

Bacigalupo R, Cudd P, Littlewood C, et al.  Interventions employing mobile technology for overweight and obesity: An early systematic review of randomized controlled trials Obesity Reviews. 2012; 14: 279-291

Review question

Does mobile technology effectively support weight loss in overweight or obese adults?

Background

Those who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. As mobile technologies become more accessible they may be used to provide interventions to promote weight loss. 

How the review was done

This review included 7 studies with 584 overweight or obese adults. In all studies participants learned about diet and exercise to support weight loss, and carried a mobile device such as a pager or mobile phone with them all day. In some studies the mobile device was used to send motivational messages to participants, in other studies participants used the mobile device to record what they ate and how much they exercised. Some interventions included a financial component either as an incentive or disincentive (i.e. owed money if weight targets were not met). The interventions lasted between 9 weeks and 1 year.

What the researchers found

In the short term, those who received the intervention tended to lose more weight than those who did not and this finding is statistically significant. However, given total weight loss was measured rather than percentage of body weight, it is not possible to determine if the amount of weight lost by those receiving the intervention is sufficient to lower the risk of health problems caused by being overweight or obese. Long term impact is not known given only 1 of 7 studies reported weight loss at 1 year. In the one study that measured weight loss for up to 1 year, weight loss did not continue after six months, but 25% of participants maintained a clinically meaningful amount of weight loss at 1 year follow up.

 

Conclusion

There is evidence that mobile technology interventions may support weight loss in some, but not all overweight and obese adults in the short-term. More research is needed to determine the long term impact (over 1 year) on weight loss.




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