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Science says these are the weight loss apps that actually work

Photo: Shutterstock.

Australian scientists have kicked the tyres of weight loss apps and have decided which ones work and which are the best.

The world-first research found many of the apps are inaccurate and based on poor science.

However, experts at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre found Noom Weight Loss Coach the most likely to change behaviour and assist weight loss.

Australian app Control My Weight (CalorieKing Wellness Solutions) and Calorie Counter Pro (MyNetDiary Inc) were jointly rated the second best apps.

Here are the top rated apps:

The study is the first in Australia to comprehensively test the quality and evidence base of dietary weight loss apps and the first in the world to test kilojoule measures reported in the app against the reference standard for Australia.

After examining 800 apps for the study, researchers selected 28 apps that were weight management-specific and allowed for logging food intake.

Each app was used for five days and assessed against: the credibility of their information source; the accuracy and coverage of scientific information; the inclusion of enhanced features (such as barcode scanners); usability; and their likelihood of changing behaviour.

“Although they’re clearly not perfect for managing weight loss, apps are becoming increasingly popular for both consumers and clinicians,” says Juliana Chen, a dietitian and PhD candidate.

If you’re looking for a weight loss app, Chen says there are a few things to consider to ensure you don’t choose a dud.

“Make sure the app comes from a credible source, and that health professionals have been involved in developing it. We found that a large number of weight loss apps are developed by people with little scientific understanding of what would support weight loss,” she says.

“Choose an app which includes techniques for changing behaviour –- these were generally the apps which rated the best in our evaluation. Apps that include more motivational components, such as points, levels, feedback, rewards and challenges, are more likely to lead to changes in behaviour.

“Check to see if the information provided in the app matches up with reliable sources on healthy eating, such as the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

“Lastly, choose an app that’s easy to use and easy to log your food. This includes using an app with an Australian database of foods.”

Chen says using an app can be helpful for people who want to get a better idea of the amount of food and kilojoules they are eating each day.

“However, you need to be a highly motivated person to maintain the food logging over a prolonged period of time,” she says. “Many people find the process becomes tedious, and their engagement with the app drops off.”

What leads to more effective weight loss is using an app in conjunction with weight loss counselling from a health professional.

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