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The largest mobile data study to date published in Scientific Reports proves Noom produces long-term weight loss and lasting behavior change

Kayla Reynolds, MS

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. In an attempt to fight the national obesity epidemic, Noom has developed a product that addresses the behaviors associated with this condition to help users lose weight, improve their health, and prevent or manage chronic conditions.

In 2010, Noom launched its first weight loss app, Noom. We spent two years perfecting the app before spending another two years analyzing its efficacy, in a study published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports last week.   

We looked at data from 35,921 Noom users between October 2012 to April 2014 to understand how our app helped users achieve their weight loss goals. Our analysis demonstrated successful weight loss and maintenance for 78% of users over a 9-month period. In addition, 23% of the population lost over 10% of their bodyweight, and the prevalence of obesity decreased by nearly 30%.

Interestingly, we found that users who were younger, male, and with a higher baseline BMI, were the most successful at losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

We noticed a trend wherein older users were less successful at losing weight than younger users. Previous studies have reported a decrease in basal metabolic rate (that’s the number of calories your body burns without any additional activity) with age, along with a number of body changes that occur as we get older, which may explain the decrease in successful weight loss with age.

In addition, while 76% of females were able to lose weight, 84% of males experienced long-term weight loss. A number of factors could contribute to this finding. For example, males burned more calories through exercise each day. They also started their journey at a higher BMI and may have had greater motivation for weight loss.

We also found that individuals who started the study with a higher BMI (that’s the measure we use to categorize someone’s weight as “normal” versus “overweight” or “obese,” and is related to someone’s risk of chronic disease) were more likely to lose weight. Specifically, we were able to cut the prevalence of obesity by 30% — from 33.3% to 23.6% of users. We also think that this might have something to do with people at a higher BMI being more motivated to lose weight.

We also wanted to understand the behaviors associated with successful weight loss and maintenance so that we could best guide our users in building these habits.

Staying within the calorie budget prescribed by the app was a significant driver of successful weight loss. By logging their food, users can monitor their calorie intake and stick to their calorie budget. Our analysis showed users who lost weight were more than 10 times more likely to log their food intake regularly (particularly dinner) than users who didn’t lose weight. Users can also stick to their calorie budget by staying active. Those who lost weight were also 2.5 times more likely to log their physical activity.

Users are also prompted to weigh in at least once per week. Users who sustained weight loss were 3 times more likely to weigh themselves regularly. 

It’s widely accepted that these self-monitoring behaviors, particularly tracking food intake, activity level, and weight, are effective in helping people reach their weight loss goals. However, previous studies have focused mostly on traditional paper-based tracking. The results of our study contribute to our understanding of the efficacy of self-monitoring using a mobile application. Validating the effectiveness of this approach is also valuable since mobile applications have the potential to be seamlessly integrated in a real-world setting to guide users’ food choices and provide real-time feedback.

As this study evaluated our app from 2012 to 2014, users did not receive human coaching or follow a structured program, yet even still they experienced great success. Since then, we’ve come a long way.

We’ve created two experiences to meet the needs of our users. The first is a free experience that enables users to track their food and activity to become more aware of their habits and make healthier choices. The second is a paid experience for users looking for more support and guidance in their journey, where users participate in an intensive 16-week course and have access to a human coach and supportive group of peers.

Additionally, for enterprise clients, we offer additional programs for diabetes prevention, hypertension prevention, diabetes management, hypertension management, and co-morbid conditions.

Previous studies that looked at Noom’s structured programs with human coaching have demonstrated greater weight loss success and maintenance and have proven successful in preventing chronic conditions as well as reversing symptoms of disease.

If you’d like to lose weight yourself, click here to learn how you can achieve similar weight loss with a Noom course.

If you’re an employer, click here to learn how you can address this growing epidemic in your employee population.