Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Weight loss by mobile phone: a 1-year effectiveness study

Irja Haapalaa1 c1, Noël C Barengoa2, Simon Biggsa3, Leena Surakkaa4 and Pirjo Manninena5

a1 Department of Public Health, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland and Department of Education, University of Joensuu, POB 86, 57101 Savonlinna, Finland

a2 Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland and Unit of Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University Hospital La Paz, Madrid, Spain

a3 School of Social Studies, King’s College London, London, UK

a4 Department of Public Health, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland and Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland

a5 Department of Clinical Nutrition and Department of Medicine, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland


Objective To investigate the short- and long-term effectiveness and the predictors of weight loss in a mobile phone weight-loss programme among healthy overweight adults.

Design One hundred and twenty-five healthy, overweight (BMI = 26–36 kg/m2), 25–44-year-old, screened volunteers were randomized to an experimental group (n 62) to use a mobile phone-operated weight-loss programme or to a control group (n 63) with no intervention. Via text messaging, the programme instructed a staggered reduction of food intake and daily weight reporting with immediate tailored feedback. Assessments were at 0, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months for the experimental group; at 0 and 12 months for the control group. Main outcome variables were changes in body weight and waist circumference.

Results By 12 months the experimental group had lost significantly more weight than the control group (4·5 (sd 5·0) v. 1·1 (sd 5·8) kg; F(1,80) = 8·0, P = 0·006) and had a greater reduction in waist circumference (6·3 (sd 5·3) v. 2·4 (sd 5·4) cm; F(1,80) = 55·2, P = 0·0001). Early weight loss, self-efficacy, contact frequency, attitudes towards the medium, changes in work and family life and changes made in dietary habits were the strongest predictors of weight loss.

Conclusions This mobile phone weight-loss programme was effective in short- and long-term weight loss. As a minimum-advice, maximal-contact programme, it offers ideas for future weight-loss programmes.

(Received May 30 2008)

(Accepted January 21 2009)

(Online publication March 27 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email