Use of Wearable Device Does Not Improve Weight Loss


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Among overweight or obese young adults, the addition of a wearable technology device (that provided feedback on physical activity) to a standard behavioral intervention resulted in less weight loss over 24 months, according to a study appearing in the September 20 issue of JAMA.


Effective long-term treatments are needed to address the obesity epidemic. There is wide availability of commercial technologies for physical activity and diet. These technologies include wearable devices to monitor physical activity, with many also including an interface to monitor diet. These technologies may provide a method to improve longer-term weight loss; however, there are limited data on the effectiveness of such technologies for modifying health behaviors long term.


John M. Jakicic, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues randomly assigned study participants to a standard behavioral weight loss intervention (n = 233) or technology-enhanced weight loss intervention (n = 237). Participants (body mass index [BMI], 25 to <40; age range, 18-35 years; 29 percent nonwhite; 77 percent women) were placed on a low-calorie diet, prescribed increases in physical activity, and had group counseling sessions. At 6 months, the interventions added telephone counseling sessions, text message prompts, and access to study materials on a website. Also at 6 months, participants randomized to the standard intervention group initiated self-monitoring of diet and physical activity using a website, and those randomly assigned to the enhanced intervention group were provided with a wearable device and accompanying web interface to monitor diet and physical activity. The trial was conducted between October 2010 and October 2012.


Seventy-five percent of participants completed the study. The researchers found that weight change at 24 months differed significantly by intervention group. Estimated average weights for the enhanced intervention group were 212 lbs. at study entry and 205 lbs. at 24 months, resulting in an average weight loss of about 7.7 lbs. Corresponding values for the standard intervention group were 210 lbs. at baseline and 197 lbs. at 24 months, for an average loss of 13 lbs. At 24 months, weight loss was 5.3 lbs. lower in the enhanced intervention group compared with the standard intervention group.


Both groups had significant improvements in body composition, fitness, physical activity, and diet, with no significant difference between groups.


“Devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity may not offer an advantage over standard behavioral weight loss approaches,” the authors write.


The researchers add that the reason for the difference in weight loss between the groups warrants further investigation.

(doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12858; the study is available pre-embargo to the media at the For the Media website)


Editor’s Note: This study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, etc.


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