R u eating? No cake! Text messages can aid dieters

Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:31pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - R u eating? R u moving?

A small U.S. and German study has found that text messaging may help children fight off obesity by taking advantage of the fact that many youngsters are glued to their cell phones.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina and Germany's University of Heidelberg found text messaging could be used to reduce children's chances of becoming overweight or obese later in life by helping them monitor and modify their behavior.

Recent studies show that about 19 percent of U.S. children aged between six and 11 are overweight, and that 80 percent of overweight adolescents become obese adults.

"Self-monitoring of calorie intake and expenditure and of body weight is extremely important for the long-term success of weight loss and weight control," said U.S. researcher Jennifer Shapiro, assistant professor of psychiatry, in a statement.

"Unfortunately, both children and adults who are trying to lose weight often do not adhere to self-monitoring. They tend to be good about self-monitoring at the start of a weight-loss effort, but then their adherence drops off over time."

Traditionally paper diaries are the most effective tool used for self-monitoring by dieters who write down how many calories they eat daily and how many calories they burn through exercise.

But Shapiro and her colleagues had a hunch that this concept might work better in children if they could report their self-monitoring via text messages and receive feedback messages.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, involved 58 children aged 5 to 13 and their parents who took part in group education sessions to encourage them to increase physical activity, decrease time spent watching television, and cut back on sugar-sweetened drinks.   Continued...