Study: Texting effective intervention tool for weight control

Daily text messaging may be a useful self-monitoring tool for weight control, particularly among racial/ethnic minority populations most in need of intervention, according to Duke University study results published in a Journal of Medical Internet Research article.

"Recent studies show that racial/ethnic minorities are more likely than white individuals to own mobile phones," states the article. "The high familiarity with and penetration of mobile technologies makes text messaging an ideal intervention platform among these populations."

The purpose of the randomized controlled pilot study was to evaluate the feasibility of a text messaging intervention for weight loss among predominantly black women, who "have alarmingly high rates of obesity as compared with other gender and racial/ethnic groups." The secondary aim of the study was to evaluate the effects of the intervention on weight change relative to an education control arm.

Fifty obese women aged 25-50 years were randomized to either a six-month intervention using a fully automated system that included daily text messages for self-monitoring tailored behavioral goals (e.g., 10,000 steps per day, no sugary drinks) along with brief feedback and tips (26 women) or to an education control arm (24 women). The article states that weight was objectively measured at baseline and at six months, while adherence was defined as the proportion of text messages received in response to self-monitoring prompts.

At six months, the article reports that the intervention arm lost a mean of 1.27 kg, and the control arm gained a mean of 1.14 kg. The average daily text messaging adherence rate was 49 percent with 85 percent texting self-monitored behavioral goals two or more days per week. Moreover, about 70 percent strongly agreed that daily texting was easy and helpful and 76 percent felt the frequency of texting was appropriate. 

"Given that the majority of evidence indicates that greater adherence leads to better outcomes, our study suggests that mHealth-based approaches to self-monitoring may enhance engagement and reduce the burdens commonly associated with other modes," concluded the article. "Our intervention was relatively low intensity and has greater potential for dissemination compared to higher intensity interventions. As technology penetration increases in the target population, the use of this modality will become increasingly relevant and helpful as an intervention tool for weight control."

Earlier this year, an article published in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association revealed that mobile app self-monitoring of physical activity and dietary intake among overweight adults participating in a weight loss program are more effective than traditional methods. The study involved a post hoc analysis of a six-month randomized weight loss trial among 96 overweight men and women, which found that physical activity app users self-monitored exercise more frequently over the six-month study and reported greater intentional physical activity than non-app users. 

To learn more:
- read the article in JMIR