Research: Cell phones can assist with weight loss and maintenance

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The obesity epidemic in the United States is exploding and has spread to young adults.  As it reaches higher and higher levels, it is leading to significantly more public health implications that will follow the youth in adulthood.  If we can implements interventions at a younger age, we can make a huge impact on future disease progression and health care costs in the future.  An intervention in early adulthood may be an effective strategy for reducing the long-term health impact of the epidemic.  Very few weight loss trials have been conducted in young adults.   This concept is especially true in recruits and trainees in the military.  Maintaining a healthy weight is a military requirement for this population.  With the increasing use of cell phones and mobile devices, this might create an avenue to reach and help this population.  Unfortunately, it is unclear what weight loss strategies are beneficial in this population.

Good news is that recent studies have begun to look at cell phone usage for weight loss and the differences between male and female Reserve Officer Training Corp members[1].  The study was implemented by questionnaire to 404 cadets in Florida.  This study examined gender differences in technology use, weight loss strategies, and information needed to maintain a healthy weight.  Most of the cadets own a smartphone.  In particular, the cadets use them as their primary internet access.   Researchers found that most used healthy weight loss strategies, including increasing physical activity, reducing sweets, and reducing fried foods.  Females were more likely than men to reduce fried foods and sweets.  Most reported a willingness to participate in cell phone-based weight loss programs and particular they used programs with text messages and programs to track various aspects of their health to include food, activity, sleep, steps, and anxiety/stress. Most of the subjects needed some education on eating healthy on a budget and eating healthy on-the-run.

Another study looked at cell phone interventions in 365 overweight and obese adults.  The researchers believed that active interventions would be superior to the standard advice only standard.  Thsubjectsts were randomized and placed in three intervention groups for 24 months.  The intervention was provided by monthly cell calls alone, monthly calls and personal coaching, or advice alone.  The researchers found that in young adults that cell phone interventions were particularly effective with weight loss and maintenance.  

The bottom line:  Addressing the obesity epidemic will require a range of strategies and interventions.  Mobile phones create novel opportunity in young adults for assisting with weight loss.   Young adults need training on healthy food choices, and a cell phone is one way to provide this.  A small investment by the medical community may provide lifelong impact at reducing cost and suffering from the disease.  Further research is needed but the results are promising.  

References

[1]
J. A. Wilson and D. C. James, “Weight Loss Strategies Used by Army Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets: Implication for Student Health and Wellness Services,” T, Nov. 2018 [Online]. Available: 10.1089/tmj.2018.0174″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/tmj.2018.0174
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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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