Weight Loss Promotion Intervention Using Social Media & Mobile Technology

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
  • Obesity is the leading cause of death among approximately 2.8 million people every year.
  • Controlled weight loss could be achieved by nutritional, pharmacological and/or surgical treatments.
  • Social Media and Mobile technologies could serve as useful tools that aid weight loss and weight maintenance by being cost-effective and easy-to-use
  • A 2-year-old randomized controlled trial "SMART" (A Social and Mobile Weight Control Program for Young Adults) has been designed to develop an intervention to promote weight loss in overweight/obese young adults.
There have been very limited number of weight loss interventions that had been evaluated for more than a year and even lesser number of them that have employed social media and mobile technologies which are widely used among young adults. Dr. Job G Godino have assessed the efficacy of a theory-based weight-loss intervention for 2 years which had been delivered remotely and adaptively through integrated user experiences with social media like Facebook and mobile tools like apps, emails, text messaging, websites and other technology-mediated communication with a health coach. This intervention has been named as "Project SMART".
Weight Loss Promotion Intervention Using Social Media & Mobile Technology
Weight Loss Promotion Intervention Using Social Media & Mobile Technology

The focus of the study conducted by the University of California, San Diego was to develop an intervention that would promote weight loss among overweight or obese young adults.

‘The Project “SMART”- An intervention to promote weight loss in overweight/obese young adults via the use of Social Media and Mobile Technology.’
Obesity is one of the main risk factors for various chronic diseases and a few types of cancers. The main causes of obesity include physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and various other social factors.

The authors recruited students from colleges and universities in order to evaluate the effects of SMART on the status of their weight and other behavioral, metabolic, and psychosocial outcomes during the 2-year period. The authors sought to evaluate between condition differences in weight status at the end of 2 years.

The study also aimed at assessing the impact of the SMART intervention at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months on the following criteria:
  • Quality of life
  • Diet
  • Depression
  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary behaviors
  • Blood pressure levels
  • Waist circumference
  • Differences in weight status
  • Level of satisfaction
  • The amount of use of the intervention components.
The criteria were applied to the chosen overweight/obese young adults. Among them, the authors sought to determine whether Project SMART resulted in weight loss.

The participants enrolled in the study were healthy young English-speaking adults (18 to 35 years old) of both genders who were available for a 2-year intervention. They ought to be Facebook users or those who were willing to use Facebook. They should own a personal mobile phone, a PC and should be able to use mobile apps and social media. They should also be willing to attend required research measurement visits in San Diego over the 24 months.

The exclusion criteria for the participants included:
  • Those who had sleep apnea, orthopedic problems, eating disorder, psychiatric problems, cancer and diabetes.
  • Those with a BMI of less than 25 kg/m2 or greater than 35 kg/m2.
  • Those who were pregnant, lactating, breastfeeding, under medications.
  • Non-English speaking individuals and those who had enrolled in other such programs.
Upon following the above-mentioned criteria, overweight or obese participants from three different universities in San Diego were enrolled for the randomized, controlled trial. They were randomly assigned to receive general information about health & wellness or the intervention. The former group was called the control group and the latter, SMART intervention group. They used permuted-block randomization which was computer-based with four block sizes, stratified by college, sex and ethnicity. The study staff, participants and investigators were masked until the intervention was assigned. The measured weight at the end of 24 months was the primary outcome. Linear mixed-effects regression was used to measure the difference between the groups within an intention-to-treat framework. The secondary outcome was the measured weight at six, 12 and 18 months. About 404 participants were randomly assigned to the intervention between May 2011 and May 2012.

Key findings of the Study:
  • The mean age of participants was 22.7 years.
  • Mean BMI at baseline was 29.0 kg/m2.
  • At 24 months, there was no significant difference between the groups. However, the intervention group weighed slightly lesser than the other group at 6 months.
  • Rapid and excessive weight loss could be one serious adverse event in the intervention group.
The results have revealed that social media and mobile technologies did not facilitate sustained weight reduction among young adults. However, this study suggests a possibility that this kind of intervention could facilitate short-term weight loss in young adults.

  1. SMART: A Social and Mobile Weight Control Program for Young Adults (SMART) - (
Source: Medindia

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