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Courtesy: India Science Wire

Binge watching on food, health is new normal these days but what if it counts on your life? The innumerable apps on google play store have a lot more content on weight loss programs, health, and mental issues. Some have jogging apps, some launched heart rate count apps. If goes by the Scientists of Hyderabad based National Nutrition Institute (NIN), these apps are not reliable.

After doing the scientific quality assessment of the information provided in 20 top ranking weight management apps available in Google Play Store, the participating volunteers found and revealed that most of the apps do not provide authentic information and even do not have any significant impact on volunteers’ weight and eating schedules.  

In this study, scientists claimed to have a check on the system of top-ranked applications on weight loss. It is seen that apps were ranked as per the number of downloads and user ratings. These apps are available in English and calculate the calorie intake and expenditure of the user. The First three selected most popular apps for study are– S Health, MyFitnessPal and Calorie Counter. Effectiveness and user perceptions were observed. Then In the second phase, 20 apps got examined for information, content on 55-point scale on Indian condition. Out of 20, 13 apps were below 70 percent on this scale. It is observed that there was only 40 percent of apps that were recommending and encouraging the consumption of high fiber food and fruits, limiting saturated fatty acids.

Regular physical activity was promoted by only half the apps ranked in the study. While all of them kept track of weight change, the waist-to-hip circumference was included in just 25 percent.

A set of 30 healthy, young adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 23 kg/m2 or above, willing to reduce weight but not undergoing weight loss program was included in the study. They were told to download an app of their choice and track food intake and physical activity on a regular basis for eight weeks. Another set of healthy adults with a similar BMI followed their routine lifestyle.

At the end of the study period, no significant change was noted in both the groups in terms of weight and other parameters, but those using the apps indulged more in intentional physical activity and ate less of sweets and deep fried snacks.

“Participants mentioned confusion with portion sizes, unavailability of data of commonly consumed foods or burden of manual entry as major deterrents for the usage of the apps. The only positive impact seen was an increasing trend of physical activity which was probably an effect of motivation to be active because of the ‘pedometer’ feature. It does not require manual entry and can automatically track the exercise of users,” pointed out researchers in their study published in the Health Informatics Journal.

“If a person uses all the 20 apps, he or she will get 20 different kinds of suggestions while might be highly confusing. This is because these apps do not use authentic and scientifically approved data and do not take into consideration important determinants of calorie requirements such as the user’s activity levels,” pointed out Subbarao M Gavaravarapu, who led the study, while speaking to India Science Wire.

The study team included Paromita Banerjee, Damayanthi Korrapati, Subba Rao M Gavaravarapu (National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad); and Vishnu Vardhana Rao Mendu (National Institute of Medical Statistics, New Delhi). (India Science Wire)

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