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Weight Watchers plus 'smart' scale increases weight self-monitoring

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September 28, 2017

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A Weight Watchers program that featured a scale for providing users with tailored feedback fostered self-weighing and resulted in an increased proportion of participants who achieved a weight loss of 5% or more, study data showed.

“Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have shown that regular self-monitoring of body weight is one of the most important and effective behavioral strategies for weight loss,” J. Graham Thomas, PhD, of the department of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and colleagues wrote.

The researchers noted that providing feedback has been proven to enhance self-monitoring of weight.

Advances in technology have made it possible to automate both self-monitoring (eg, via ‘smart’ scales with online connectivity for self-monitoring of weight) and feedback (eg, via use of algorithms and libraries of scripted feedback messages),” they wrote.

The researchers performed a randomized pilot study in which 92 participants with BMI between 27 kg/m2 and 40 kg/m2 were randomly assigned to either the Weight Watchers online platform alone, or the same program with an added cellular-connected smart scale, along with instructions to weigh themselves each day, and a weekly feedback email message. Weight self-monitoring, either automatically by smart scale or manually by patients in the non-enhanced group, was recorded for 6 months. The primary outcome was objective body weight, which was measured by the researchers at baseline and 3 and 6 months.

Both groups achieved significant weight loss (P < .001), Thomas and colleagues reported, and there was no difference in the mean weight loss between the groups at 3 months (5.1 kg for Weight Watchers Online with smart scale vs. 4 kg for Weight Watchers only) or 6 months (5.3 kg vs. 3.9 kg).

A larger proportion of participants assigned to the smart scale group lost 5% or more of their baseline body weight by 3 months (52.2% vs. 28.3%; P = .033), but not at 6 months (43.5% vs. 30.4%; P = .28), the researchers wrote.

However, participants in the smart scale group weighed themselves more often than those in the Weight Watchers-only group (mean, 80.5; 44.7% of days vs. 12; 6.7% of days; P < .001).

“Provision of a cellular connected ‘smart’ scale with instructions to weigh daily as well as receiving weekly tailored feedback on weight change and weighing frequency delivered via email substantially increased the frequency of body weight self-monitoring. … These findings highlight the clinical significance of widely available online weight management programs and the potential of digital health technology to improve the rate at which key weight management behaviors such as self-monitoring are performed,” the researchers wrote. – by Andy Polhamus

Disclosures: Thomas reports receiving research support from Weight Watchers International, Inc. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

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Patients with a smart scale weighed themselves for more consecutive days.