Smartphone Application Interventions to Increase Weight Loss: A Systematic Review
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The obesity epidemic has reached a critical level in this country. The most recent estimates state that 78.6 million adults in the U.S. are obese. As this number is expected to continue to rise in the coming years, new strategies will need to be developed to combat this devastating disease. One promising approach is the use of mobile phones as an intervention for obesity. Unfortunately, there is little research that specifically investigates the use of smartphone applications (apps) for weight loss. This systematic review will evaluate the current pool of evidence and assess the effectiveness of smartphone application interventions to increase weight loss. The electronic databases MEDLINE, CINAHL, and PsycInfo were searched for randomized controlled trials that assessed the use of smartphone applications as a weight loss intervention. A total of 6 articles were included in this review, with the number of participants in each article ranging from 212 to 57 participants. Of the 6 included articles, only one demonstrated a significant increase in weight loss in the smartphone app group compared to the control (-4.2kg, P=0.04). However, in all of the articles that utilize a smartphone application as an adjunct to a weight loss program, the effect sizes ranged from 0.1kg to 2.9kg in favor of weight loss. On the other hand, when an app is utilized as a stand-alone intervention, there were no trends in weight change. Although the effect appears to be minimal, smartphone applications, when used in conjunction with another weight loss intervention, can have a positive effect on increasing weight loss. However, smartphone application interventions appear to be ineffective when used as the sole strategy for weight loss.