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Social Networking Efforts Have Helped Reduce Obesity, Study Finds

September 8, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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A social networking campaign can lower the body mass index (SMI) of someone who is overweight in the short-term, reveals a recent research conducted in the United Kingdom.

The researchers, at Imperial College London, did a systematic review of 12 studies that involved 1,884 patients, 941 whom received an intervention that used social networking services to reduce their weight. What they found was that those who completed the social networking intervention had a lower BMI (0.64 percent) and experienced a great change in BMI from their baseline (0.66 percent).

The studies varied. Nine of the 12 used web-based tools, one used mobile technology, and two used internet and telephone communication. Two studies used armbands with real-time displays of output, energy expenditure, and minutes spent on vigorous physical activity. Other studies used pedometers. Some studies used direct messages others provide personalized feedback, generated by physical activity information being uploaded on a social networking service site.

While there was a significant reduction in BMI, the researchers found that it was only temporary. Most of the change occurred over six months and the changes were less dramatic over 12 months. “This  suggests that compliance may be a factor in achieving a long-term, sustainable reduction in BMI,” the authors wrote. Furthermore, using the social networking services led to a 1.4 percent reduction in body weight and 0.79 percent reduction in waist circumference. These changes are inconsequential, the researchers say.

Ultimately, while social networking interventions can be effective, the researchers say that they must be used in conjunction with larger, multifaceted approaches to lose weight.

The research was published in the most recent issue of Health Affairs.

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