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Mobile phone text messages can be used to reduce obesity in children

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A simple text messaging system can help reduce the likelihood of children becoming obese in later life, suggests a small US study.

The researchers studied around 30 children, aged five to 13, for eight weeks. All the children attended three education sessions with their parents and were given a pedometer to monitor their physical activity.

Two thirds of the children were then given either a mobile phone or paper diary to self-monitor their consumption of sugary drinks and time spent watching TV, while the remainder acted as controls. Those in the phone intervention group were required to send a text – one from the child and one from a parent – each day with relevant information, which received a feedback message.

The researchers found that 43% of the children in the text messaging group adhered to daily self-monitoring, compared to just 19% of the paper diary group. Additionally, a smaller number of the phone intervention group dropped out of the study early compared to the other groups.

The authors said: ‘By using technology we were hoping to make self-monitoring seem more like fun and less like work.’

Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (2008) 40: 385-391

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