DIET&FITNESS Published September14, 2014 By Staff Writer

Social Media as a Tool for Weight Loss: Study

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Statistics show that the typical American spends at least three hours each day emailing, texting, and using social media. Staying socially connected anywhere and anytime has its perks, and one recent study even suggests that social media can contribute to weight loss.

According to researchers from Imperial College London, social media can be instrumental in helping people achieve their health aspirations. To prove this, they conducted an analysis of 12 past researches from the United States, Europe, East Asia, and Australia, which when combined involved 1,884 participants over all.

The analysis found that individuals who used "social networking services" had a lower body mass index (BMI), up to 0.64 percent lower than those who did not use such programs in any way. BMI is a measure of body fatness, and a 0.64 percent decline is equal to losing one pound, according to Johannah Sakimura of Everyday Health. This rate may be modest and underwhelming, yet significant, said the researchers.

"One advantage of using social media over other methods is that it offers the potential to be much more cost effective and practical for day-to-day use when compared to traditional approaches," said Dr. Hutan Ashrafian, a health policy researcher and surgeon. Ashrafian is also the lead author of the study at the Department of surgery and Cancer at the Imperial College London.

Using social media involves instilling a sense of community, and the feeling of belonging to an online social community encourages a patient to draw on the support of others, whether they be peers or experts, said Ashrafian.

For instance, patients can ask for expert advice without the inconveniences of travel. Peers can discuss about health concerns online as well.

Meanwhile, Everyday Health provided a list of things to consider when using social media as a tool for weight-loss, such as: sharing major weight-loss obstacles and asking for advice from others, looking for private weight-loss support groups, and posting and chatting regularly to create a solid support system online.

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