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MD's Texts Can Help Patients Shed Pounds

A new study finds text alerts from doctors can help the one-in-three Americans fighting obesity. (M. Clifford)
A new study finds text alerts from doctors can help the one-in-three Americans fighting obesity. (M. Clifford)
May 12, 2017

BANGOR, Maine – More than one in three adults in the U.S. are considered to be obese, and a new study suggests those who are struggling to lose weight might benefit if their doctors stayed in touch with them about the importance of eating a healthy diet.

In the study, one group of patients was given instructions on a healthy diet at the time of their doctor's visit. A second group got the same advice - but also received three text messages a week for 22 weeks, and after six months, they lost an average of 11.2 pounds, while the first group only dropped about two pounds.

Dr. Ashwani Singal, associate director of Hepatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says for overweight people, shedding weight can be a matter of life or death.

"We know from experience that it can be relatively easy to lose weight at first but we want to know whether text messaging can help people over the long haul," he says.

Singal says obesity can lead to a variety of fatal illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and non-alcoholic liver disease, which can turn into cirrhosis or cancer.

The study was discussed at the Digestive Disease Week conference in Chicago.

The National Institutes of Health says obesity is associated with other chronic gastrointestinal illnesses and Singal says this study indeed indicates doctors may be able to help their patients by simply texting them.

"Based on the success in this study, we will be conducting additional larger studies over a longer period to examine the impact of this strategy on more long-term challenges," he adds.

People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher are considered obese. Nearly 70 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME