Wearable tech won’t help you lose weight. It might make that harder.

I’m sure you’ll read this in a million news outlets today, but here you go:

IMPORTANCE: Effective long-term treatments are needed to address the obesity epidemic. Numerous wearable technologies specific to physical activity and diet are available, but it is unclear if these are effective at improving weight loss.

OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that, compared with a standard behavioral weight loss intervention (standard intervention), a technology-enhanced weight loss intervention (enhanced intervention) would result in greater weight loss.

DESIGN, SETTING, PARTICIPANTS: Randomized clinical trial conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and enrolling 471 adult participants between October 2010 and October 2012, with data collection completed by December 2014. INTERVENTIONS Participants were placed on a low-calorie diet, prescribed increases in

INTERVENTIONS: Participants were placed on a low-calorie diet, prescribed increases in physical activity, and had group counseling sessions. At 6 months, the interventions added telephone counseling sessions, text message prompts, and access to study materials on a website. At 6 months, participants randomized to the standard intervention group initiated self-monitoring of diet and physical activity using a website, and those randomized to the enhanced intervention group were provided with a wearable device and accompanying web interface to monitor diet and physical activity.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary outcome of weight was measured over 24 months at 6-month intervals, and the primary hypothesis tested the change in weight between 2 groups at 24 months. Secondary outcomes included body composition, fitness, physical activity, and dietary intake.

This was an RCT of 471 people (median age 31 years, median weight about 90 kg) for two years. All of them were placed on a low-calorie diet, told to exercise, and got group counseling. Six months later, they all got telephone counseling sessions, text messages, and access to online study materials. At that point, half were also told to monitor their diet and physical activity on a website. The other half got wearable tech.

I can’t tell you how many presentations I’ve been forced to sit through in the last few years that hail Fitbits, or Nike Fuelbands, or even the Apple watch as the cure to obesity. It doesn’t matter that research shows us that exercise is not the key to weight loss. It doesn’t matter that almost everyone I know who uses such a device is already active. So, so, so many people seem to think that wearable tech is the answer.

Anyway, the people in the intervention without the wearable tech lost, on average 5.9 kg over two years. The people with the wearable tech lost 3.5 kg. Did you get that? People who used the wearable tech lost significantly less weight than people who didn’t.

Now, I’m not one to say, “I told you so,” but… Actually, you know what? Screw that. I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!


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