Public Release: 

Smartphones may aid in dietary self-monitoring

Apps could help users reliably track dietary data, reports new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Elsevier Health Sciences

PHILADELPHIA, PA, September 10, 2014 - Smartphones have seen wide adoption among Americans in recent years because of their ease of use and adaptability. With that in mind, researchers from Arizona State University examined how smartphone use affected weight loss goals and determined that smartphones may offer users an advantage over traditional methods when tracking diet data.

Roughly 83% of Americans now own a mobile phone and 45% own smartphones with Internet access. For this study, researchers recruited healthy, weight-stable adults and semirandomly divided them into groups based on their diet-tracking method. The groups consisted of those who used the "Lose It!" app, those who recorded dietary intake using the memo function of their smartphone, and those who used traditional paper and pencil to record their diet. Although smartphone use did not affect total weight loss among the 47 participants who completed the study, the researchers observed better diet tracking results among those in the smartphone-use groups.

"Participants using a commercially available app more consistently entered complete days of dietary data compared with the paper-and-pencil group and also withdrew from the study less often than the other groups," lead author Christopher Wharton, PhD, said. "It's possible that app technology offers a less burdensome method for tracking data compared with traditional tools."

The memo and paper-and-pencil groups reported twice the number of missing days as the group using the app, but diet quality was not improved among app users. Therefore, it was concluded that food and nutrition professionals should consider using app technology in conjunction with dietary counseling for weight management. Because little data about smartphone use as it relates to weight management and dieting is available, this study should help inform further research in this area.

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