Everybody knows weight loss requires diet and exercise. You have to burn more calories than you eat. Although the concept is simple, it can be a daunting and difficult task. To truly know your net calories, you need to know how much energy your body uses in a day, the caloric contents of everything you eat, and how much energy you burn through exercise. If that’s not difficult enough, you have to track this information over a long period of time to accomplish a relatively slow change.

Mobile apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose It! help to make these things easier. Recently, a study compared Lose It! with more traditional methods to see how successful patients were with weight loss and diet improvement across 8 weeks.

Fifty-seven overweight or obese patients were split into 3 groups; each monitored their calories using a different method. The first group used Lose It! with no advice from the researchers regarding diet or exercise.

The other two groups received one-on-one nutrition counseling before the beginning of the study as well as weekly emails encouraging healthy eating. The counseling included personalized diet plans based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to lose approximately 1 pound per week.

These two groups used the memo function on their phone or pen and paper to track their intake and submitted the data. Researchers used the information to calculate caloric intake.

At the end of 8 weeks, there was no statistically significant difference between groups with regard to weight loss. Each group had an average weight loss of 3 to 5 pounds.

Interestingly though, the study lost 10 participants. Five were lost from each of the manually recording groups. None were lost from the Lose It! Group; a statistically significant difference.

The difference in attrition was likely due to a number of features Lose It! provides. The app allows users to see how many calories their foods have as soon as they record them by simply picking food from a database. It also shows users their progress numerically and graphically.

It’s also worth noting that none of the groups demonstrated statistically significant changes in the quality of their diets (based on the Healthy Eating Index). For nutritional benefits, other methods need to be explored.

At the end of the day, this study shows that apps like Lose It! can help people stay on course when trying to lose weight. The app lowers hurdles for users attempting to lose weight by making it easier to track diet, exercise, and calories. If users want to improve the nutritional quality of their diet in addition to losing weight, they will have to look for other strategies.