An Australian study rated U.S. app Noom Weight Loss Coach as the top mobile application that can aid in weight loss and induce behavior change. Another U.S. app, Calorie Counter PRO, and Australian app ControlMyWeight shared the top two spot.
The study was the first research in Australia to analyze the scientific basis and quality of numerous weight loss apps in the market today. To date, it is also the first to examine kilojoule measures that the apps report in comparison to the standard Australian reference.
The research team from the University of Sydney analyzed 800 mobile apps. They focused on the 28 apps that allow users to document food intake in terms of weight management. After using each app for five days, the team measured the apps' source credibility, scientific data coverage and accuracy, usability, utilization of features such as barcode scanners and their ability to alter health behaviors.
Lead author and dietician Juliana Chen said that despite the apps' inability to perfectly manage weight loss, these mobile applications are prevalent not just among consumers but also among clinicians. Chen is a doctoral candidate at the University's Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Science.
"Using an app to support weight loss can be helpful for people who want to get a better idea of the amount of food and kilojoules they are eating each day," said Chen.
The team found an average difference of 127 kilojoules (30 calories) in the measures the apps documented. However, these inconsistencies varied greatly among the apps analyzed. The biggest overrate was by 299 kilojoules or (71 calories) while the worst underrate was around 45 kilojoules (11 calories).
"Choose an app which includes techniques for changing behavior - these were generally the apps which rated the best in our evaluation," said Chen.
The research team highlighted the importance of choosing apps that come from credible sources, especially ones health professionals helped develop. There are numerous apps developed by people who have little scientific knowledge that can back up their weight loss claim. Apps that have motivational features such as rewards, feedback, point system and challenges are more likely to change health behavior.
Here are the top mobile apps in the study with their ranking and score.
1. Noom Weight Loss Coach by Noom Inc (USA, 2010), 75
2. Calorie Counter PRO by MyNetDiary Inc (USA, 2010), 65
2. ControlMyWeight by CalorieKing Wellness Solutions (Australia, 2012), 65
4. Food Diary and Calorie Tracker by MyNetDiary Inc (USA, 2010), 63.5
5. Easy Diet Diary by Xyris Software (Australia, 2011), 63
6. Calorie Counter by SparkPeople (USA, 2012), 61
7. Jillian Michaels Slim-Down: Weight Loss, Diet & Exercise Solution (USA, 2010), 57
8. MyPlate Calorie Tracker LITE by Demand Media Inc (USA, 2013), 56
9. Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal Inc (USA, 2009), 54.5
9. Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by Calorie Count (USA, 2010), 54.5
9. My Diet Coach Pro by InspiredApps (A.L) Ltd (USA, 2012), 54.5