In a new
study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, UMass Medical
School behavioural psychologist and weight loss expert Sherry Pagoto, PhD, and
colleagues find that mobile apps to help people lose weight are lacking when it
comes to strategies for changing behaviours.
do include evidence-based behavioural strategies, but only a narrow
range," said Dr Pagoto, associate professor of medicine at UMass Medical
School. "Strategies that often were missing are ones that help patients
with adherence and motivation."
study "Evidence-based strategies in weight-loss mobile apps",
published online, Pagoto and colleagues rated 30 of the most popular
mobile weight-loss apps on the market for inclusion of 20 evidence-based behavioural
strategies. Most of the apps evaluated include few or no behavioural
weight-loss strategies – 28 out of 30 included only 25% of the strategies or
less. Even the top two apps include only 65% of the 20 strategies.
weight-loss strategies that are evidence-based – meaning they have been
scientifically researched and found to be effective – include stimulus willpower
control, problem solving, stress reduction and relapse prevention. The 20
strategies that the study rated are those in the Centre for Disease Control's
evidence-based Diabetes Prevention Plan, designed to help participants make
modest behaviour changes in order to lose 5% to 7% of their body weight.
Pagoto's team was also interested in determining whether apps incorporate
technology features to enhance behavioural strategies. "On the bright
side, in terms of how apps are using technology, they're doing some really
interesting things," Pagoto noted.
include barcode scanners that can be used in a supermarket to instantly get
products' nutritional information; social networks where users can encourage
and support each other; email and text reminders; and calendars for scheduling
exercise and tracking food intake.
researchers' final question was "Do you get what you pay for?"
answer is no," said Pagoto. "Free apps were just as likely as paid
apps to include evidence-based strategies. That's the good news for the
The two top-rated
apps, according to the study, are MyNetDiary PRO ($3.99,) and MyNetDiary
we're hoping the next generation of apps can do better is in incorporating some
of those strategies that help the user who might not be so good about entering
their diet every day and staying on track with their goals," Pagoto