Incorporating a static versus supportive mobile phone app into a partial meal replacement program with face-to-face support: Randomized controlled trial

Emily Brindal, Gilly A. Hendrie, Jill Freyne, Manny Noakes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mobile phone apps may be acceptable to users and could improve retention and adherence over more traditional methods, but there is mixed literature supporting their efficacy. In the weight management space, very little is known about how a mobile phone app integrating features beyond text messaging (short message service) can affect behavior, particularly when combined with face-to-face support. Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a mobile phone app when combined with a partial meal replacement program including face-to-face support. This paper compares a static versus supportive app over a 6-month randomized trial for effects on weight loss, weight-related biomarkers, and psychological outcomes. Methods: Overweight and obese adults (71.2% female, 104/146; mean 48.11, SD 11.75 years) were recruited to participate in the weight loss study, and they were randomized on a 1:1 basis using a computer algorithm. The supportive app (n=75) provided information, food intake recording, rewards, prompts for regular interaction through reminders, and the opportunity to review personal compliance with the dietary program. The static app (n=71) included only recipes and weight loss information. Both groups recieved equal amounts of face-to-face support in addition to app. Results: The overall reduction in app usage over 24 weeks was lower for the supportive app in comparison with the static app; approximately 39.0% (57/146) of the users were still using the app at week 24. Despite the promising results for app usage, there were no differences in weight loss between groups (F1,128.12=0.83, P=.36). However, it should be noted that almost 60% (49/84) of all participants lost 5% or more of body weight during the trial. No weight-related biomarkers were significantly different between groups. Both groups experienced an increase in positive mood, but this was significantly higher for those who received the static app (F1,118.12=4.93, P=.03). Conclusions: Although the supportive app was well received by users, we found little evidence of the added benefit of this versus the static app in combination with face-to-face support in a community-delivered weight loss program. Future versions of the app may incorporate more unique behavioral techniques beyond those provided by the consultant to improve the potency of the app. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12613000547741; (Archived by WebCite.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Apr 2018


  • Diet
  • MHealth
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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