A text message-based intervention for weight loss: randomized controlled trial

J Med Internet Res. 2009 Jan 13;11(1):e1. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1100.


Background: To our knowledge, no studies have evaluated whether weight loss can be promoted in overweight adults through the use of an intervention that is largely based on daily SMS (Short Message Service: text) and MMS (Multimedia Message Service: small picture) messages transmitted via mobile phones.

Objective: This paper describes the development and evaluation of a text message-based intervention designed to help individuals lose or maintain weight over 4 months.

Methods: The study was a randomized controlled trial, with participants being exposed to one of the following two conditions, lasting 16 weeks: (1) receipt of monthly printed materials about weight control; (2) an intervention that included personalized SMS and MMS messages sent two to five times daily, printed materials, and brief monthly phone calls from a health counselor. The primary outcome was weight at the end of the intervention. A mixed-model repeated-measures analysis compared the effect of the intervention group to the comparison group on weight status over the 4-month intervention period. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) models examined weight change between baseline and 4 months after adjusting for baseline weight, sex, and age.

Results: A total of 75 overweight men and women were randomized into one of the two groups, and 65 signed the consent form, completed the baseline questionnaire, and were included in the analysis. At the end of 4 months, the intervention group (n = 33) lost more weight than the comparison group (-1.97 kg difference, 95% CI -0.34 to -3.60 kg, P = .02) after adjusting for sex and age. Intervention participants' adjusted average weight loss was 2.88 kg (3.16%). At the end of the study, 22 of 24 (92%) intervention participants stated that they would recommend the intervention for weight control to friends and family.

Conclusions: Text messages might prove to be a productive channel of communication to promote behaviors that support weight loss in overweight adults.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00415870.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cell Phone*
  • Communication
  • Exercise
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / rehabilitation*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / rehabilitation
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Self Care
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Loss*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00415870