Reverence for the App

How Much Can an App Help with Weight?

We’re guilty. Like many others walking down the street, it seems we can’t do it without the aid of our phone. Can that same phone help with weight? A new study in Obesity says yes. A little bit. In the short term. Mobile apps can indeed help.

A Meta-Analysis

Xue Cai and colleagues analyzed data from 14 studies with 2,129 patients. These were all people with type 2 diabetes. Their BMI ranged from 23.5 to 38.1, but the average was 30. These folks were older, with an average age of 58 and a range of 51 to 66. The mobile apps were all designed to help with diabetes self-management. They provided help with weight tracking, exercise, diet, and even blood glucose. The studies ranged in duration from three to twelve months.

But in the end, the functionality of the apps in this study did not matter much. Nor did the study duration. All of the apps seemed to help with weight outcomes. It wasn’t anything dramatic – just an average of a little less than two pounds and a bit less than an extra inch around the waist. However, these differences were significant, even if the change in BMI was not.

Small Differences, Results Will Vary

With such small, but significant differences, you should bear two things in mind. First, don’t expect miracles. These apps might not help at all for some people. But second, do be open to the possibility that an app might be quite helpful. Some people find them to be a godsend. In particular, this analysis showed that the biggest benefit came to people with higher weights in the range of obesity.

One size never fits all. But if an app works for you, stick with it. The real payoff in health comes with long-term results, not short-term weight loss. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Click here for the study and here for further perspective.

Reverence for the App, photograph © Michael Davis-Burchat / flickr

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February 5, 2020