With millions of individuals across the world relying on nutrition tracking apps for weight loss, a recent study sought to evaluate the efficacy of these technologies on weight reduction in obese or overweight individuals. Previous studies had discrepancies with regard to the effect of apps due to the several limitations. This retrospective cohort study, however, based its results on the complete enumeration study that utilized the clinical and logging data entered by Noom Coach app users between October 2012 and April 2014.
The results suggest that nutrition tracking apps are successful with weight loss, assuming they are actually used. A total of 35,921 participants were included in the analysis, of whom 77.9% reported a decrease in body weight while they were using the app. Dinner input frequency was the most important factor for successful weight loss. Also, the more users recorded their weight, the less likely they were to experience the yo-yo effect with their weight. Per the authors of the study, “This study demonstrated the clinical utility of an app for successful weight reduction in the majority of the app users; the effects were more significant for individuals who monitored their weight and diet more frequently.”
This study is important for and valuable to wellness coordinators as they think about potential ways to use nutrition tracking apps in their programs. Often, wellness coordinators use nutrition apps as tools for managing weight loss competitions, which numerous studies have shown to have negative consequences. Others try to use these apps to ensure that individuals are hitting their recommended daily intake, which creates a clear incentive to falsify reported data or skip entries of certain meals. This hurts the impact these technologies can deliver. Instead, wellness coordinators should encourage the use of these technologies. Frequent reporting serves as a feedback loop (“I didn’t know that cookie is bad for me”) and is tied to statistically weight loss. This is why Wellable’s Wellness Challenges platform creates a structure that encourages and rewards users to regularly and accurately input their data.