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Journal Articles Journal of social marketing Year : 2020

Using digital devices to help people lose weight: a systematic review


When fighting the burden of overweight and obesity, diet remains a powerful preventive factor. The aim of this study is to stimulate more efficient interventions on diet change by synthesising knowledge of previous weight loss programs based on the use of digital devices. Following the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses approach, a systematic literature review through five databases was undertaken focused on the assessment of studies oriented towards diet change that incorporating digital devices including computers, tablets, mobile phones, portable and non-portable tracking devices. Fifteen empirical studies (2004 to 2018) were identified and examined for efficacy, and presence of theory and behaviour change techniques. Digital devices supporting weight loss programs have evolved rapidly over the last 15 years, from reminders using the short message system to self-quantification through mobile applications. Nine studies show a significant difference between conditions, in favour or one (or more) intervention arm. The remaining studies failed to find a significance between conditions but were using a comparison with an active intervention, potentially indicating equivalent efficacy. A low level of theory use and use of behavioural techniques was evident. The literature review is limited to studies that have scientifically evaluated the (potential) weight loss associated with the weight loss intervention. This review could be put into perspective with other complementary research, in particular, qualitative research aimed at exploring participants' motivtions to use (or not) digital devices to lose weight. Few previous reviews have examined the extent of the efficiency in digital diet change programs. The review shows that in general, digital interventions can support weight loss for adults, however more studies are required to provide a strong evidence base for efficacy. Given their low cost and the size of the overweight population, public health policies could integrate these devices more strongly in their efforts to combat obesity. A theory-driven social marketing perspective could enhance development, ensuring interventions are effective and valued by users.
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hal-02404941 , version 1 (29-06-2020)


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Madeleine Besson, Patricia Gurviez, Julia Carins. Using digital devices to help people lose weight: a systematic review. Journal of social marketing, 2020, 10 (3), pp.289-319. ⟨10.1108/JSOCM-07-2019-0115⟩. ⟨hal-02404941⟩
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