“Consumer catnip” – weight loss apps at Consumer Electronics Show

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The following was originally published on the Reporting on Health website by Barbara Feder Ostrov, deputy editor of that site. That site and ours are now frequently exchange content.


Every January, there’s plenty of media coverage of weight loss, New Year’s fitness resolutions and other consumer health news intended to get couch potatoes off their feet and out of the fridge.

The Consumer Electronic Show’s Digital Health Summit, which wrapped up last week, is generating its share. You can see the tweets from the conference and exhibition at #digitalhealth and #DHSummit and read stories about it here and here.

Although the summit also addressed some back-end issues of digital health, including electronic medical records, what’s generating a good deal of buzz are the latest devices and apps for losing weight: Kitchen appliances that help you make healthier choices. Armbands that track your calorie expenditures and sleep patterns. Pedometers that donate to charity for every step you take.

It’s consumer catnip, but does it really work? The evidence is mixed. You can find some great context and background in Jane Sarasohn-Kahn’s recent analysis of mObesity, or mobile devices and apps aimed at helping people lose weight:

Obesity is epidemic in the U.S., among adults and, increasingly, kids. And while most doctors recommend brand-named weight loss programs — 79% Weight Watchers, and 44% a program affiliated with the American Diabetic Association — more may soon be recommending connected devices and apps soon as patients who have successfully incorporated these programs into their life-flows demonstrate positive and sustained outcomes. For now, large-scale evidence is scant, while the number of individual patient anecdotes is growing.

Personally, I’m skeptical of these apps’ long-term appeal and effectiveness, unless you’re a Quantified Self devotee. The diet and weight loss industry is littered with useless products. Are these apps and devices going to be the ThighMasters of the 21st century? Considering Americans’ ever-expanding waistlines (including my own), I’d love to be proven wrong.

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Photo credit: Tony Alter via Flickr

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Comments (2)

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January 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm

As obesity becomes a number one problem in the Usa and other countries people tend to try some new trend diet or some new magic pills that claim you will have a body like a super model,But in reality they are all hog wash.With so many options, people that are overweight just don’t know whats right.A pill,or a natural weight loss program or simply joining a gym to workout.Exercise is in my opinion still the best option to stay fit.