Weight loss apps found lacking in motivational support

They are the latest weapon in the dieter's arsenal and are widely used by those hoping to lose weight. But according to new research, phone apps designed to help you shed those excess pounds are falling short in a couple of key areas.

Diet apps lack motivational support

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A study by US researchers looked at 30 of the most popular diet apps, and found many are failing to provide the motivational support and tips on changing behaviour necessary for weight loss success.

Previous research has shown that a behavioural strategies such as stimulus willpower control, problem solving, stress reduction and relapse prevention are an important part of the dieting process.

While the apps studied did include some features designed to enhance behavioural strategies, such as nutritional information scanners, text reminders, food intake trackers and social networks where users can support each other, they were found lacking in those that "help patients with adherence and motivation".

The better news for those watching their weight, however, was that researchers found many of the free apps were just as likely to include behavioural strategy features as those that you pay for.

Furthermore, there is plenty of scope for improvement with diet apps likely to become more sophisticated in the months and years to come.

Sherry Pagoto, associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who led the research, said: "Where we're hoping the next generation of apps can do better is in incorporating some of those strategies that help the user who might not be so good about entering their diet every day and staying on track with their goals."

The study rated MyNetDiary PRO and its free version, MyNetDiary, as the top diet apps.

Have you used any apps to help you lose weight? Did they work for you? Leave your comments below...