Episode 23

Losing Weight with Apps

Published on: 21st November, 2022

Losing Weight With Apps

Can a phone app help you lose weight? How about with your cholesterol, blood pressure, or waist size?

Perhaps you've heard the latest Noom ads, where they boast forty publications showing that their app will help you lose weight.

Apple is coming out with more ways to have their new watch track your heart rate and steps, with apps even looking at your yoga workout and eventually telling your blood glucose.

Episode Sponsor: Modifyhealth.com

What the Studies Show

A recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials showed that the average weight loss in the first three months was slightly below five pounds (2.18 kg).

Unfortunately, the weight loss didn't last.  Nine months later, they had regained a pound and a half for a total loss of 3.5 pounds (1.63 kg).

Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Calories

There was a slight improvement in blood pressure at three months. But cholesterol and total energy intake, as well as waist circumference and blood glucose, remained the same.

The Proliferation of Apps

There are over 500,000 applications on Android and Apple phones to track various health data points. In addition, there are other devices just measuring fitness. The theory of measuring fitness behaviors with calorie tracking to provide feedback to improve health is appealing.

Many Apps With Poor Quality

Many apps had a lack of behavioral coaching and poor quality of scientific information. Tracking over a three-day period found that the accuracy of energy intake among apps was only fair in terms of total calories and amounts of macro- and micronutrients.

What About Noom

Noom is one of the more popular paid apps. They boast over 40 peer-reviewed articles. A quick glance at the articles showed some surprising flaws:

One article compared Noom in pancreatic cancer patients to a control group who received no coaching.

Another article used Noom data for their references.

Article after article that Noom sites are little more than using Noom's data without dropout rates.



Chen J, Cade JE, Allman-Farinelli M. The Most Popular Smartphone Apps for Weight Loss: A Quality Assessment. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2015 Dec 16;3(4):e104. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.4334. PMID: 26678569; PMCID: PMC4704947.

Chew HSJ, Koh WL, Ng JSHY, Tan KK. Sustainability of Weight Loss Through Smartphone Apps: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis on Anthropometric, Metabolic, and Dietary Outcomes. J Med Internet Res. 2022 Sep 21;24(9):e40141. doi: 10.2196/40141. PMID: 36129739; PMCID: PMC9536524.

Keum J, Chung M, Kim Y, Ko H, Sung M, Jo J, Park J, Bang S, Park S, Song S, Lee H

Usefulness of Smartphone Apps for Improving Nutritional Status of Pancreatic Cancer Patients: Randomized Controlled Trial JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2021;9(8):e21088 URL: https://mhealth.jmir.org/2021/8/e21088 DOI: 10.2196/21088

Pohl, M. "325,000 mobile health apps available in 2017—Android now the leading mHealth platform. Research 2 Guidance." (2017).

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About the Podcast

Fork U with Dr. Terry Simpson
Learn more about what you put in your mouth.
Fork U(niversity)
Not everything you put in your mouth is good for you.

There’s a lot of medical information thrown around out there. How are you to know what information you can trust, and what’s just plain old quackery? You can’t rely on your own “google fu”. You can’t count on quality medical advice from Facebook. You need a doctor in your corner.

On each episode of Your Doctor’s Orders, Dr. Terry Simpson will cut through the clutter and noise that always seems to follow the latest medical news. He has the unique perspective of a surgeon who has spent years doing molecular virology research and as a skeptic with academic credentials. He’ll help you develop the critical thinking skills so you can recognize evidence-based medicine, busting myths along the way.

The most common medical myths are often disguised as seemingly harmless “food as medicine”. By offering their own brand of medicine via foods, These hucksters are trying to practice medicine without a license. And though they’ll claim “nutrition is not taught in medical schools”, it turns out that’s a myth too. In fact, there’s an entire medical subspecialty called Culinary Medicine, and Dr. Simpson is certified as a Culinary Medicine Specialist.

Where today's nutritional advice is the realm of hucksters, Dr. Simpson is taking it back to the realm of science.

About your host

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Terry Simpson

Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate, graduate, and medical degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. Until he found he liked people more than petri dishes. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2018 and 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.”