Does tracking what you eat help you lose weight?


With obesity in the UK and worldwide increasing, researchers are always looking for new, simple ways of helping people lose weight. Losing just 5-10% of weight can dramatically improve cardiovascular health (1), as well as reducing the risk of many other chronic disease. This research (2) conducted in February 2019, and published in JMIR Publications, looked at overweight and obese individuals. They were split into three groups, one of which used the app MyFitnessPal to track what they ate. Each group set a weight loss goal with a specific date to achieve this by and received in-app reminders.

Key facts - 105 participants aged 21-65 years

- The intervention lasted for 12 weeks

- The mean age was 42.7 years with a mean BMI of 31.9

- 76% completed the 12 weeks

- Group 1: mean weight loss of -2.7kg (weight track to week 4, then adding diet tracking). - Group 2: mean weight loss of −2.4kg (App-Only). - Group 3: mean weight loss of −2.8kg (both weight and diet, with weekly lessons, action plans, and feedback). Strengths - It was a randomised control trial which is a very thorough research method

- The participants had a varied background

- No conflicts of interest from funding sources

- This trial was similar to real-world weight loss situations

Weaknesses - Small sample size

- As participants self-reported there may have been bias in their feedback

- Although small, compensation was given to participants which may result in response bias.

- No pure control arm which may underestimate the true impact of the intervention.

Our verdict

Considering the simple intervention, this tactic may be easily implemented on an individual basis as well as a wider scale. The research was similar to real-world context and consequently may increase its impact for individuals with low motivation. More research with a control group and a larger sample would be excellent to confirm these findings and ensure they are generalisable to the wider population.

In the meantime, there’s nothing to lose from setting a weight goal and deadline, tracking your weight and also what you eat. At best, you may lose some weight, and at worst you may find out why you're not!