Weight Reduction Through a Digital Nutrition and Food Purchasing Platform Among Users With Obesity: Longitudinal Study

J Med Internet Res. 2020 Sep 2;22(9):e19634. doi: 10.2196/19634.


Background: Digital nutrition apps that monitor or provide recommendations on diet have been found to be effective in behavior change and weight reduction among individuals with obesity. However, there is less evidence on how integration of personalized nutrition recommendations and changing the food purchasing environment through online meal planning and grocery delivery, meal kits, and grocery incentives impacts weight loss among individuals with obesity.

Objective: The objective of this observational longitudinal study was to examine weight loss and predictors of weight loss among individuals with obesity who are users of a digital nutrition platform that integrates tools to provide nutrition recommendations and changes in the food purchasing environment grounded in behavioral theory.

Methods: We included 8977 adults with obesity who used the digital Foodsmart platform, created by Zipongo, Inc, DBA Foodsmart between January 2013 and April 2020. We retrospectively analyzed user characteristics and their associations with weight loss. Participants reported age, gender, height, at least 2 measures of weight, and usual dietary intake. Healthy Diet Score, a score to measure overall diet quality, was calculated based on responses to a food frequency questionnaire. We used paired t tests to compare differences in baseline and final weights and baseline and final Healthy Diet Scores. We used univariate and multivariate logistic regression models to estimate odds ratios and 95% CI of achieving 5% weight loss by gender, age, baseline BMI, Healthy Diet Score, change in Healthy Diet Score, and duration of enrollment. We conducted stratified analyses to examine mean percent weight change by enrollment duration and gender, age, baseline BMI, and change in Healthy Diet Score.

Results: Over a median (IQR) of 9.9 (0.03-54.7) months of enrollment, 59% of participants lost weight. Of the participants who used the Foodsmart platform for at least 24 months, 33.3% achieved 5% weight loss. In the fully adjusted logistic regression model, we found that baseline BMI (OR 1.02, 95% CI 1.02-1.03; P<.001), baseline Healthy Diet Score (OR 1.06, 95% CI 1.05-1.08; P<.001), greater change in Healthy Diet Score (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.11-1.14; P<.001), and enrollment length (OR 1.28, 95% CI 1.23-1.32; P<.001) were all significantly associated with higher odds of achieving at least 5% weight loss.

Conclusions: This study found that a digital app that provides personalized nutrition recommendations and change in one's food purchasing environment appears to be successful in meaningfully reducing weight among individuals with obesity.

Keywords: app; behavior change; behavioral economics; digital; eating behavior; food environment; food ordering; food purchasing; mHealth; meal planning; nutrition; obese; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diet, Healthy / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status / physiology*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Young Adult