A Nov. 2013 article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has the information that Marketdata analysts and many others in the weight loss field have been looking for--how effective are all these free and low-cost weight loss apps that DIY dieters are now using?.
We all know that these apps have proliferated in number. In fact, for this study, the researchers searched a total of 400 free and paid apps in the iTunes "health & fitness" category, and 480 in the Android Market. Of these 880 apps only 30 were identified as ones that included weight, diet, and physical activity self-monitoring. A total of 16 of the top 100 iPhone apps met the criteria and 13 of the 100 top Android apps -- for a total of 30.
"The primary aims of the study were to determine the degree to which commercial weight-loss mobile apps include the behavioral strategies included in evidence-based weight-loss interventions, and to identify features that enhance behavioral strategies via technology."
Evidence-based lifestyle interventions, which have been shown to be effective for weight loss and reduction of diabetes, are intensive, involving multiple in-person visits, generally for a period of 6 months to 1 year. "The only existing review of weight loss mobile apps was conducted in 2009 and found that the range of behavioral strategies addressed by apps was quite narrow. Only 43% of 204 mobile apps reviewed included dietary self-monitoring."
"Only 20% of mobile apps gave users a specific physical activity goal in terms of days or minutes per week."
"Several behavioral strategies were not used in any of the apps, including stress reduction, relapse prevention, social cues, time management, and instruction on how to read nutrition labels."
HERE'S THE BIG TAKEAWAY!
The best weight loss apps are NOT MyFitnessPal (which claims to have 40 million registered users and dominates in popularity). It is MyNetDiary PRO and MyNetDiary. But, this app only met 65% of the criteria for evidence-based behavioral strategy criteria necessary for effective weight loss. MyFitnessPal only met 15% of the criteria!
Another finding of this research paper: Price may not be a reflection of content quality or the sophistication of the technology.
Conclusions: "It remains unclear whether the maximum potential for mobile apps lies in self-guided delivery, delivery with provider oversight, or delivery in conjunction with a formal weight loss program. Self-guided delivery would seem to have the broadest potential for reach, but perhaps the lowest potential for efficacy."
OK, weight loss providers. Now you have PROOF that DIY mobile apps don't work for weight loss. So, tell your clients and prospects about it! Independent research confirms it. Maybe then they'll consider coming back to your program.