Twitter might actually help people lose weight. A recent study shows that dieters who use Twitter as part of a mobile weight-loss program are more likely to shed pounds than those who don’t use social media.

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The study, conducted by the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, is one of the first to examine the use of Twitter in a behavioral weight-loss intervention, said Brie Turner-McGrievy of the Arnold School’s Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior.

The study followed 96 overweight and obese men and women who participated in a weight-loss program using a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Half of the group received biweekly podcasts about nutrition, exercise  and goal setting, while the other half, in addition to receiving the podcasts, downloaded a diet-monitoring app and a Twitter app to their mobile devices.

While both groups lost weight over the six-month study, those in the second group, who were actively posting to Twitter and getting feedback from a weight-loss counselor and fellow participants, dropped even more weight. In fact, researchers found that every 10 posts to Twitter corresponded to a 0.5 percent weight loss.

This study holds profound implications for weight-loss counselors and those who develop nutritional and dietary-intervention programs.

“Traditional, behavioral weight-loss interventions generally provide social support through weekly, face-to-face group meetings. While we know this is effective, it is costly and can create a high degree of burden on participants,” said Turner-McGrievy.

“Providing group support through online social networks can be a low cost way to reach a large number of people who are interested in achieving a healthy weight,” she said.

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