Online dieters who log in regularly lose more than eight percent of their body weight in six months, a new study shows adding that the less users interacted in the community, the less weight they lost.
“Our findings suggest that people can do very well at losing weight with minimal professional help when they become centrally connected to others on the same weight-loss journey,” said Bonnie Spring, professor in preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The study is the first to use data from an online weight management programme to investigate social network variables.
The study also reveals which aspects of online social connectedness most strongly promote weight loss.
The users who did not connect with others lost about five percent of their body weight over six months.
Those with a few friends (two to nine) lost almost seven percent and those with more than ten friends lost more than eight percent.
“There is an almost Facebook-like social network system in this programme where people can friend each other and build cliques,” said Luis A. Nunes Amaral, professor of chemical and biological engineering in McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“In this case, we found the larger your clique, the better your outcomes,” Amaral explained.
The online social support community approach could work in other areas of behavioural medicine like depression and alcoholism, where in-person meetings are recommended.
“Modern life is so complex and stressful, to go somewhere for a meeting is often not practical. It is hopeful that this alternative approach, of going online for support, could work,” Amaral concluded.
The study appeared in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.