The diet industry is big business – with the global weight loss market expected to reach $206.4 billion by 2019. However, the needs of the users within the market are changing. Increasingly health-conscious consumers are shunning ‘fad’ diets and schemes and seeking to better understand nutrition rather than blindly follow the endorsements of so-called gurus and are therefore turning to technology to assist them in their quest to lead healthier lifestyles.
Aside from those actively seeking to change their eating and exercise habits healthcare providers are starting to understand the value of reaching out to those otherwise uninterested in improving their well-being by providing fun and exciting applications to increase their interest in health and nutrition, often encouraging competition by way of gamification.
Different Tech types
Applications such as calorie trackers have gained in popularity over the past few years, with those looking to improve their diet using calorie trackers to log their food using only food diary applications. Trackers such as MyFitnessPal have exploded onto the health app scene, offering users the opportunity to log their daily food and measure not only calories but macronutrients too.
Going one step further, Evolyst created the Health Heroes app to assist families in understanding nutrition and moderating portion sizes. Adding a gamification element, the app goes beyond just logging and offers tips for families to improve their diet.
Other items such as coaching apps encourage users by offering support and advice on a daily basis. Apps like Noom Coach integrate food logging with encouragement and specific diets plans, taking it beyond a tracking app. In fact, applications made to change unhealthy habits can be more beneficial than using willpower alone.
Away from diet, wearable technologies such as Fitbit can help users to increase their level of movement and can work well in conjunction with food-based trackers as users increase their activity levels while reducing calorie intake.
For managing diet-related diseases such as diabetes, self-testing and analysing technologies can help users to remember to take their medications, measure blood sugar, and generally better self-manage their condition.
Benefits for healthcare professionals:
With obesity costing the UK economy an estimated £27 billion a year, any technology that can improve the health of patients can offer a great return on investment for healthcare providers.
And it goes beyond the costs of treating weight-related diseases. Although there are upfront costs associated with building and marketing applications aimed at reducing obesity, the ongoing maintenance of these apps can be negligible when measured against the costs of running clinics, and time spent with patients on diet-related issues.
By actively encouraging would be patients to think about their diet and lifestyle before weight becomes a serious health issue, healthcare providers can avoid heavy costs in treating weight-related illnesses.
Diet apps and technology are changing the way in which those wanting to lose weight and make healthy lifestyle changes look at their food intake. Offering users opportunities to go beyond traditional dieting where the main focus was calories in and out, new technology is making it possible to personalise diet plans making weight loss plans more tailored to the specific user. The range of applications around means that users can focus on their particular stumbling point, be it willpower, their understanding of nutrition, or even just their knowledge of calories within specific foods.
In terms of success, it has been shown that the drop-out rates of those using health apps tend to compare favourably with other methods such as weight loss clinics and groups, making diet technology an increasingly useful tool for healthcare providers wanting to increase good health among patients.