BACKGROUND: Obesity prevalence continues to increase worldwide, with significant associated chronic disease and health cost implications. Among more recent innovations in health service provision is the use of text messaging for health behaviour change interventions including weight management. This review investigates the efficacy of weight management programmes incorporating text messaging.
METHODS: Medical and scientific databases were searched from January 1993 to October 2013. Eligibility criteria included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), pseudoRCTs and before and after studies of weight management, among healthy children and adults, that used text messaging and included a nutrition component. Data extraction and quality assessment followed guidelines from PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses) and the Evidence Analysis Manual of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
RESULTS: From 512 manuscripts retrieved, 14 met the inclusion criteria (five manuscripts in children and nine in adults). Duration of interventions ranged from 1 to 24 months. Frequency of text messaging was from daily to fortnightly. Six studies in adults were included in a meta-analysis with mean body weight change as the primary outcome. The weighted mean change in body weight in intervention participants was -2.56 kg (95% confidence interval = -3.46 to -1.65) and in controls -0.37 kg (95% confidence interval = -1.22 to 0.48).
CONCLUSIONS: The small body of evidence indicates that text messaging interventions can promote weight loss. However, lack of long-term results indicate that further efficacy studies are required. Future investigations should elucidate the determinants, such as intervention duration, text message frequency and level of interactivity that maximise the success and cost effectiveness of the delivery medium.