Drexel study: Smartphone app detects diet cheat

March 27, 2019

More than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight and half of them are trying to lose weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a recent study, led by Evan Forman, PhD, a psychology professor in Drexel University's College of Arts and Sciences, a first-of-its-kind smartphone app called OnTrack can predict ahead of time when users are likely to lapse in their weight loss plan and help them stay on track.

"Weight loss apps are exceptionally popular," said Forman. "However, very few people are successful at losing weight and keeping weight off, even with the help of these apps. The bottom line seems to be that it is extraordinarily difficult to stay on the weight loss plan."

People on weight loss plans often experience lapses, which can prevent successful weight loss or even lead to weight regain, according to Forman.

The study evaluated the effectiveness of the app among weight loss program participants, individuals attempting to follow a structured online weight management plan from WW (previously known as Weight Watchers) for eight weeks.

OnTrack uses advanced statistical methods - machine learning - to learn over time a user's individual patterns of eating. Specifically, it learns patterns that are predictive of staying on one's weight loss plan and patterns that are predictive of lapsing from one's plan. When the algorithm detects the risk of lapsing is high, it sends a special coaching message that matches the reasons that someone is at risk. For example, the app can predict a person is eating late at night because of being bored at home with tempting food. The predictions get better over time as the app learns a user's behavioral patterns.

"This study is part of a line of research devoted to helping people become more adherent to a dietary prescription, which leads to more successful weight loss," said Forman.

Results showed the study was successful in three separate areas. First, participants reported high levels of satisfaction with the app. Second, OnTrack was successful at predicting lapse. Finally, over the course of the study, participants averaged a 3.13 percent weight loss and reduction in unplanned lapses.

Since the study was successful, the next step is a randomized clinical trial to confirm the app's efficacy as a weight loss tool.

"Apps are particularly useful for predicting and preventing individual health behaviors. OnTrack could be utilized to facilitate greater success during self-directed weight loss attempts," said Forman.
-end-
The study "OnTrack: Development and Feasibility of a Smartphone App Designed to Predict and Prevent Dietary Lapses" was published in Translational Behavioral Medicine in March 2019. The study was funded by the Obesity Society and WW. A partner in conducting the study, WW provided the app/program to participants. Co-authors include Stephanie Goldstein, doctoral student; Fengqing Zhang, PhD; Brittney Evans, doctoral student; Stephanie Manasse, PhD; Meghan Butryn, PhD and Adrienne Juarascio, PhD of Drexel University.

Drexel University

Related Eating Articles from Brightsurf:

Self-eating decisions
Harvard Medical School researchers systematically surveyed the entire protein landscape of normal and nutrient-deprived cells to identify which proteins and organelles are degraded by autophagy.

Temperament affects children's eating habits
Temperamental children are at greater risk for developing unhealthy eating habits.

Face up to eating disorders, and seek help
A new study has found young people are leaving it 'too late' to seek help for eating disorders, citing fear of losing control over their eating or weight, denial, and failure to perceive the severity of the illness as reasons not to get professional advice.

Memory games: Eating well to remember
A healthy diet is essential to living well, but should we change what we eat as we age?

Eating disorders linked to exercise addiction
New research shows that exercise addiction is nearly four times more common amongst people with an eating disorder.

Review of 96 healthy eating studies finds 'nudges' yield best changes in eating habits
A gentle nudge in the right direction is sometimes all people need.

Why young men aren't eating their five-a-day
A new study reveals why young men aren't eating their five-a-day.

Unexpected nut eating by gorillas
Scientists from the Max Planck institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Washington University in St.

Is 'clean eating' just dirty rhetoric?
Study looks at #cleaneating as a healthy or harmful dietary strategy and explores perceptions of clean eating and associations with disordered eating among young adults.

Eating healthily at work matters
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, demonstrated that employees at a large urban hospital who purchased the least healthy food in its cafeteria were more likely to have an unhealthy diet outside of work, be overweight and/or obese, and have risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, compared to employees who made healthier purchases.

Read More: Eating News and Eating Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.