Background: Smartphone diet tracking applications (apps) are increasing in popularity but may not adequately address the important concerns of proper intake and of diet quality. Two novel weight loss apps were designed based on the popular dietary frameworks: MyPlate and FoodLists. MyPlate, the dietary guidelines put forth by the U.S. government, encourages a balanced diet from five primary food groups, but does not specify intake limits. The Food Lists set upper intake limits on all food groups except vegetables, and these guidelines extend to include fats, sweets, and alcohol.
Objective: The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to determine whether adherence to a weight loss app providing intake limits and more food group detail (the Food Lists app) facilitated more weight loss and better diet quality than adherence to a weight loss app based on the MyPlate platform. An additional objective was to examine whether higher app adherence would lead to greater weight loss.
Design: Thirty seven adults from a campus population were recruited, randomized, and instructed to follow either the Food Lists app (N=20) or the MyPlate app (N=17) for eight weeks. Subjects received one 15 minute session of diet and app training at baseline, and their use of the app was tracked daily. Body mass was measured at baseline and post-test.
Participants/setting: Healthy adults from a university campus population in downtown Phoenix, Arizona with BMI 24 to 40, medically stable, and who owned a smartphone.
Main outcome measures: Outcome measures included weight change, days of adherence, and diet quality change. Secondary measures included BMI, fat %, and waist circumference.
Statistical analysis: Descriptive statistics (means and standard errors); Repeated measures ANOVAs analyzing weight, diet quality, and BMI; Pearson and Spearman correlations analyzing adherence and weight loss.
Results: Repeated measures ANOVAs and correlations revealed no significant mean differences in primary outcome variables of weight loss, adherence, or diet quality (P=0.140; P=0.790; P=0.278). However, there was a significant mean reduction of BMI favoring the group using the Food Lists app (P=0.041).
Conclusion: The findings strengthen the idea that intake limits and food group detail may be associated with weight loss. Further investigation is warranted to determine whether longer use of the Food Lists app can produce more significant dieting successes and encourage healthier behavioral outcomes.