Study Reveals Weight Loss Benefits of Smartphone Apps

The results of a recent study by the Archives of Internal Medicine suggest that people who use mobile apps to track their daily calorie intake could lose weight more successfully than people who do not.

Study Details

Scientists at Northwestern University tracked the weight loss efforts of 69 overweight adults, a majority of them men over the age of 40. Participants were divided into two groups, one given access to a mobile app for counting calories and the other who used non-technological methods. Additionally, participants were all enrolled in a health education class which emphasized nutrition and realistic weight loss goal-setting.

The study concluded that weight loss efforts supported by digital tools like calorie counting mobile apps to be more effective diets in which eating habits are tracked through old-fashioned methods like pen and paper.

Participants in the study who tracked their daily calorie intake through a mobile app lost 5% of their body weight in the first three months and an average of 8.6 pounds more weight every three months than participants who did not use technology to monitor their eating habits. Those who did use an app lost no weight. Moreover, participants from the study who lost weight kept it off for a year following the initial weight loss period.

Not all credit from the successful weight loss from this study, however, can be attributed to the calorie tracking mobile apps. The participants from the study also had their progress monitored through twice-monthly telephone check-in sessions from weight loss coaches. Researchers from the study praised both the benefits of technology-based calorie intake tracking as well as group support for meeting weight loss goals.


One possible explanation of the effectiveness of the weight loss apps used in this study are that participants knew their results were being transmitted to their weight-loss coach via the mobile interface. Participants who tracked their daily calorie intake through pen and paper were not subjected to this possibility of immediate social accountability for their eating habits.

Dr. Goutham Rao remarked with regards to this study that, “The number one mechanism through which people lose weight is self-monitoring, just watching what you eat and keeping a record of it.” In other words, simply being more mindful about eating can make it easier to lose weight.

It’s also worth pointing out that participants from this study were not exactly pulled from a technologically-connected generation. At an average participant age of 58, it’s possible that more or less weight loss would occur in a sample that more accurately reflects the average population due to variables such as familiarity with mobile devices and susceptibility to being more easily distracted by their offerings.

Patients who achieved the most weight loss in this study not only used a mobile app to track their calorie intake but also attended


This study was far from perfect as it drew conclusions from a very small number of participants. However, its findings could revolutionize the future of weight loss and patient care and lead to more elaborate studies on the effectiveness of mobile apps for weight loss. What researchers from Northwestern have helped discover is the potential for effective weight loss that occurs when you combine technology with accountability and oversight.

Imagine a world where busy doctors are able to easily and simply track their patients’ weight loss progress through mobile apps automatically transmit daily calorie intake. This inexpensive solution would enable physicians to give more personalized attention to their patients while saving time. With an ever-increasing percentage of the population carrying a powerful mobile device with them at all times, it becomes more realistic to expect physicians to turn to technology to solve the weight loss problems faced by their clients.

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