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Smartphone applications to support weight loss: current perspectives

Authors Pellegrini C, Pfammatter A, Conroy D, Spring B

Received 3 April 2015

Accepted for publication 19 May 2015

Published 15 July 2015 Volume 2015:1 Pages 13—22


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Utkan Demirci

Christine A Pellegrini, Angela F Pfammatter, David E Conroy, Bonnie Spring

Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA

Abstract: Lower cost alternatives are needed for the traditional in-person behavioral weight loss programs to overcome challenges of lowering the worldwide prevalence of overweight and obesity. Smartphones have become ubiquitous and provide a unique platform to aid in the delivery of a behavioral weight loss program. The technological capabilities of a smartphone may address certain limitations of a traditional weight loss program, while also reducing the cost and burden on participants, interventionists, and health care providers. Awareness of the advantages smartphones offer for weight loss has led to the rapid development and proliferation of weight loss applications (apps). The built-in features and the mechanisms by which they work vary across apps. Although there are an extraordinary number of a weight loss apps available, most lack the same magnitude of evidence-based behavior change strategies typically used in traditional programs. As features develop and new capabilities are identified, we propose a conceptual model as a framework to guide the inclusion of features that can facilitate behavior change and lead to reductions in weight. Whereas the conventional wisdom about behavior change asserts that more is better (with respect to the number of behavior change techniques involved), this model suggests that less may be more because extra techniques may add burden and adversely impact engagement. Current evidence is promising and continues to emerge on the potential of smartphone use within weight loss programs; yet research is unable to keep up with the rapidly improving smartphone technology. Future studies are needed to refine the conceptual model’s utility in the use of technology for weight loss, determine the effectiveness of intervention components utilizing smartphone technology, and identify novel and faster ways to evaluate the ever-changing technology.

Keywords: technology, obesity, physical activity, diet

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