Effectiveness of mobile electronic devices in weight loss among overweight and obese populations: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BMC Obes. 2014 Oct 14;1:22. doi: 10.1186/s40608-014-0022-4. eCollection 2014.


Background: Mobile electronic devices, such as mobile phones and PDAs, have emerged as potentially useful tools in the facilitation and maintenance of weight loss. While RCTs have demonstrated a positive impact of mobile interventions, the extent to which mobile electronic devices are more effective than usual care methods is still being debated.

Results: Electronic databases were systematically searched for RCTs evaluating the effectiveness of mobile electronic device interventions among overweight and obese adults. Weighted mean difference for change in body weight was the primary outcome. The search strategy yielded 559 citations and of the 108 potentially relevant studies, six met the criteria. A total of 632 participants were included in the six studies reporting a mean change in body weight. Using a random-effects model, the WMD for the effect of using mobile electronic devices on reduction in body weight was -1.09 kg (95% CI -2.12, -0.05). When stratified by the type of mobile electronic device used, it suggests that interventions using mobile phones were effective at achieving weight loss, WMD = -1.78 kg (95% CI -2.92, -0.63).

Conclusions: This systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that mobile electronic devices have the potential to facilitate weight loss in overweight and obese populations, but further work is needed to understand if these interventions have sustained benefit and how we can make these mHealth tools most effective on a large scale. As the field of healthcare increasingly utilizes novel mobile technologies, the focus must not be on any one specific device but on the best possible use of these tools to measure and understand behavior. As mobile electronic devices continue to increase in popularity and the associated technology continues to advance, the potential for the use of mobile devices in global healthcare is enormous. More RCTs with larger sample sizes need to be conducted to look at the cost-effectiveness, technical and financial feasibility of adapting such mHealth interventions in a real clinical setting.

Keywords: Mobile electronic device; Obesity; Overweight; Weight loss.