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The Twitter diet? Social media may aid weight loss

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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.

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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