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Professional dietary coaching within a group chat using a smartphone application for weight loss: a randomized controlled trial

Authors Tanaka K, Sasai H, Wakaba K, Murakami S, Ueda M, Yamagata F, Sawada M, Takekoshi K

Received 13 February 2018

Accepted for publication 14 March 2018

Published 16 July 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 339—347

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JMDH.S165422

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser


Kiyoji Tanaka,1,2 Hiroyuki Sasai,3 Kyohsuke Wakaba,4 Shin Murakami,4,5 Miyuki Ueda,5 Fumio Yamagata,6 Masao Sawada,6 Kazuhiro Takekoshi7

1Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan; 2THF Co., Ltd, Tsukuba, Japan; 3Department of Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan; 4Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan; 5Life Science Department, FiNC Inc., Tokyo, Japan; 6Genki Plaza Medical Center for Health Care, Tokyo, Japan; 7Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan

Purpose: To test the effectiveness of professional dietary coaching via group chat using a smartphone application (app) for weight loss.
Methods: This study was a 12-week, assessor-blind, parallel-group, waitlist-controlled randomized trial that included a 4-week follow-up period (trial registration, UMIN000025340). Data were collected between October 2016 and May 2017 and were analyzed between July 2017 and January 2018. Participants were 112 overweight, obese, or abdominally obese Japanese adults, aged 20 to 64 years, with at least one cardiometabolic risk factor. Participants were randomized to the coaching group (n=75) or control group (n=37), with a ratio of 2:1. The coaching group received a commercial weight loss program characterizing dietary coaching by a certified nutrition professional via group chat delivered on a smartphone app. Participants posted photos of every meal into the group chat, and the certified professional gave immediate direct feedback and encouragement. The primary outcome was an 8-week weight change. Secondary outcomes included 8-week changes in cardiometabolic risk factors. The frequency of meal photo uploads was recorded as a measure of adherence.
Results: Of the 112 randomized participants, 93 (83.0%) and 81 (72.3%) completed 8-week and 12-week visits, respectively. Intention-to-treat analysis demonstrated significantly larger 8-week weight loss in the coaching group (−1.4 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI]: −2.0, −0.8 kg) than that in the control group (−0.1 kg; 95% CI: −0.6, 0.4 kg). Significantly larger improvements in triglyceride and glycated hemoglobin A1c levels were also obtained in the coaching group. These benefits, except for the triglyceride level, were maintained until week 12. The frequent upload of meal photos was associated with a larger 8-week weight loss in a dose–response fashion (P-value for trend <0.001).
Conclusion: This smartphone-delivered commercial weight loss program characterized as dietary coaching via group chat resulted in modest but significant weight loss. Facilitating participants’ active involvement in the program is necessary to achieve greater health benefits.

Keywords: specific health guidance, technology-enhanced program, meal photo upload

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