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UNC study: Text messaging may help children fight off obesity
Date:11/11/2008

CHAPEL HILL Many children love sending and receiving text messages through their cell phones sometimes to the great annoyance of their parents.

But now a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests this technology could be used to reduce children's chances of becoming overweight or obese later in life, by helping them monitor and modify their own behaviors now.

Recent studies show that approximately 19 percent of youths aged 6 to 11 are overweight, and that 80 percent of overweight adolescents become obese adults.

"Self-monitoring of calorie intake and expenditure and of body weight is extremely important for the long-term success of weight loss and weight control," said Jennifer R. Shapiro, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine and principal investigator of the new study, which is published in the November/December 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

"Unfortunately, both children and adults who are trying to lose weight often do not adhere to self-monitoring," Shapiro said. "They tend to be good about self-monitoring at the start of a weight-loss effort, but then their adherence drops off over time."

Traditionally, paper diaries are the tool most often used for self-monitoring. People trying to lose weight write down how many calories they consume, how many calories they burn in exercise and how much they weigh. While a paper diary can be very effective, Shapiro and her colleagues had a hunch that the same concept might work better in children if they could report their self-monitoring via cell phone text messaging and receive feedback messages in return.

"Cell phone text messaging is something that's very familiar to most children now, since they've grown up with it," Shapiro said. "By using this technology, we were hoping to make self-monitoring seem more like fun to them and less like work."

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Contact: Stephanie Crayton
scrayton@unch.unc.edu
919-966-2860
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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