A new smartphone app available on the National Health Service could assist successful dieting, the findings of a pilot scheme have suggested.
The trial, published in the Journal of Internet Medical Research, found that monitoring exercise and food intake using an app is more effective in helping dieters shed the pounds than a traditional food diary.
The study, led by Professor Janet Cade, from Leeds University’s School of Food Science and Nutrition, was the first to evaluate a smartphone app as the sole method for monitoring weight loss.
My Meal Mate, which is available from the NHS Choices website, outperformed similar products for monitoring food intake, an online food diary and the traditional paper version.
The app allows users to set a weight loss target and monitor their food intake and exercise. It sends a weekly update on progress via text message.
The smartphone app was used on average every other day in the trial, while the average use of the website and paper diary was about once a week.
As a result, over the six-month study period those using the app lost on average 4.6kg (10lbs), compared with the 1.3kg (3lbs) lost by online diary users and the 2.9kg (6.5lbs) lost by those using a paper-based version.
Prof Cade said the labelling on food packaging can help people to identify sensible food choices but does not enable them to understand the cumulative effects of the foods they eat.
She added: “Keeping a food diary allows us to see where we might be eating too much and the app has proved to be the most effective tracking method by far.”