A recent study from researchers at Duke University Medical Center and the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services ranked the top two hundred weight loss applications for the iPhone. From these results, the Diet & Food Tracker app by Sparkpeople.com was rated the best.

Sparkpeople.com is a multi-platform media and technology company with health, fitness and food websites along with mobile applications. The mission of the company is to “SPARK” millions of “PEOPLE” to live healthier lives and reach their goals. Catchy as the mission statement is, there are useful tools on the site that many people may find as an appropriate aid to reaching their fitness goals.

Perusing the website, some of the tools available include a calorie counter and meal plan as well as a fitness program that helps users burn calories. There is even an inventive motivational system designed to give users positive reinforcement, where users can earn awards and trophies. The results can all be tracked in the Feedback Reports section, where there are graphs of current progress plus feedback and tips.

The findings from the researchers were published in the Journal of Translational Behavioral Medicine. The study was based on criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

The abstract from the study is as follows:

“Information on content, user rating, and price was extracted from iTunes on September 25, 2009. Apps (n=204) were coded for adherence to 13 evidence-informed practices for weight control. Latent class analysis was used to identify subgroups of apps based on endorsement practices. Only a small percentage of apps had five or more of the 13 practices (15%). Latent class analysis revealed three main types of apps: diet, physicalactivity, and weight journals (19%); dietary advice and journals (34%); and weight trackers (46%). User ratings were not associated with apps from these three classes.”

One of the researchers, Emily Breton, MPH, mentioned that SparkPeople’s iPhone weight loss app was the only comprehensive app that met 12 of the 13 criteria that were used to evaluate the accuracy and effectiveness of all the weight loss applications studied.

According to the article, the 12 criteria that Sparkpeople.com passed are:

  1. An assessment of one’s weight (via BMI or other interpretation)
  2. A recommendation for and ability to track daily servings of fruits and vegetables
  3. A recommendation for weekly physical activity goals
  4. A recommendation for and ability to track daily servings of water
  5. Ability to track one’s daily food consumption
  6. Ability for users to calculate how many calories they need to eat given their activity level
  7. Weight loss recommendation of 1-2 pounds per week
  8. Information on portion control or ability to access nutritional information for foods based on serving size
  9. Ability for users to look up nutritional facts for foods
  10. A weight tracker
  11. A tracker for exercise and/or daily physical activity
  12. Meal plans or recipes

The results are highly regarded by Sparkpeople.com

” ‘This study documents what our members have long known: that SparkPeople offers the very best in state-of-the-art mobile applications to help people reach their weight loss and health goals,’ said Chris Downie, Founder and CEO of SparkPeople.com, which has been called ‘The Facebook of Dieting’ by Fortune and ‘The Online Program That Works’ by Good Housekeeping. ‘These applications are an integral part of the comprehensive, world-class suite of tools, content and community that has helped millions of people lose weight and improve their health and made SparkPeople.com America’s largest diet and fitness website.’ “

Diet & Food Tracker on iTunes

Sources: TBM and SFGate