Send a tweet, lose a pound?


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What happens when the worlds of weight loss and social media collide? Success! Well, at least according to one recent study.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health recently found that using Twitter can be a “valuable support system for helping people lose weight.”

According to the study, led by Arnold School researcher Brie Turner-McGrievy and published in Translational Behavioral Medicine, participants in a weight loss program used Twitter for information and support via status updates.

“The results show that those who regularly utilized Twitter as part of a mobile weight loss program lost more weight,” said Turner-McGrievy of the Arnold School’s Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior.

The study followed 96 overweight and obese men and women over a six-month period. They were randomly assigned to either the podcast-only (Podcast) or podcast plus enhanced mobile media intervention (Podcast + mobile) groups.

Both groups received two podcasts per week for three months and two mini-podcasts per week during the third to sixth months. The podcasts offered information about nutrition and exercise, goal setting and an audio soap opera. In addition, the Podcast + mobile group downloaded a diet and physical activity monitoring application and a Twitter app to their mobile device.

The main trial found that the Podcast only and Podcast + mobile methods produced a 2.7% decrease in body weight at six months. However, participants who used Twitter were more successful with losing weight: Every 10 posts to Twitter corresponded with about 0.5% weight loss, according to the study.

Participants in the Podcast + mobile group followed each other on Twitter to offer support. Two daily messages, posted to Twitter by the weight loss counselor, reinforced content from the podcasts and encouraged discussion.

One of the most frequent types of Twitter posts was an update from a participant, such as “I avoided eating a pastry this morning at a breakfast meeting! I did have a skim Mocha without whipped cream … not too bad.”

However, in order for Twitter to be a useful weight loss tool, engagement is key. The social media site didn’t work for every participant, according to Turner-McGrievy. Some weren’t engaged or only posted a few times.

Of course, more studies would be needed “to find ways to provide social support for participants in remotely delivered weight loss programs in ways that are engaging, rewarding and useful for a wide variety of participants.”

Whether or not conversing on Twitter actually helps with weight loss goals, it certainly can’t hurt to find a supportive group of bloggers, tweeters and healthy living websites (wink, wink) for support, encouragement and advice.

Tell us below: Has social media ever helped you with your weight loss goals?