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The 'smart' way to lose weight

If you're trying to lose weight with the help of a smartphone app, a new study assesses the best apps to help get the job done.

lifestyle Updated: Oct 03, 2011 16:47 IST

If you're trying to lose weight with the help of a smartphone app, a new study assesses the best apps to help get the job done.

In a study published this month in the Journal of Translational Behavioral Medicine, study researcher Emily Breton for George Washington University in the US and her team set out to examine the best weight loss apps and how they measure up to scientific standards. The downside of the study is that the team used 200 apps available in the iTunes store in late 2009, and since then the market has been flooded with new apps. But the study provides some useful take-away points as to what may work and what to look for.

In the study, the top app was diet tracker SparkPeople, which scored high on all criteria in the study -- including encouraging eating fruits and vegetables, physical activity, and drinking water over juice or soda. Also, the app features a food diary and helps users find a balance between calories consumed and calories burned.

Health news website MyHealthNewsDaily reported on September 28 that ideal programs "also would encourage a moderate weight loss of 1-2 pounds (0.5 to 0.9 kilograms) per week, focus on food-portion control and the reading of nutrition labels, provide a way to track weight and physical activity, and include a meal planner and a social-support component."

When it comes to finding a good app, Breton also recommends looking at user ratings: in the study, her team found that the higher the user ratings for an app, the more likely the app adhered to science-based standards.

Smartphone users have thousands of apps -- with more added every day -- to choose from to help them achieve fitness and weight loss goals, including popular fitness and weight loss apps Lose It!, Calorie Counter, My Fitness Pal, Food Scanner, and RunKeeper, among many others.

Media communications professor Gary Miller from Wake Forest University in the US said these kinds of apps can help you become aware of what you're eating and how many calories you're burning, and give you an on-the-spot wakeup call to how fattening that double-cheeseburger really is. But don't expect miracles. Digital media can make things simpler, he adds, but it's not likely to change your habits anytime soon.

First Published: Oct 01, 2011 16:08 IST