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Private Twitter Weight Loss Groups Works for Dieters

Tim Boyer's picture
Social Media support helps dieters lose weight

A new study shows that joining a private Twitter weight-loss group is a feasible, effective and acceptable way to help dieters lose weight. Here’s what kind of results you can expect.


According to research by UMass Medical School, behavioral and quantitative health experts revealed in a new study that is published in the Journal of Medicine Internet Research (JMIR) Research Protocols, that using Twitter as a social media device in lieu of making patient visits for weight loss counseling can be an effective and easier way to lose weight.

The problem with in-person visits to a clinician or health expert for lifestyle interventions that have proven effective for significantly reducing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease is that such interventions places a burden of time and high cost on both the patient and the provider.

To remedy this problem, it has been proposed that online social networks may reduce the burden of lifestyle interventions visits. To test this theory out, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School conducted a series of pilot studies to evaluate the effectiveness of utilizing private weight-loss groups through Twitter.

The study consisted of three test groups. The first group was composed of 10 obese participants with depression who received lifestyle counseling through 12 weekly group visits and then formed a private social media group using Twitter. The second group was composed of 11 adults with obesity―but not depression―who were regular users of social media, although not Twitter. The third group was composed of 12 adults with the same criteria as those in the group two, had just a single group counseling session plus a 12-week lifestyle intervention delivered entirely via a private Twitter community.

What the researchers found was that:

• The first group’s mean weight loss was 2.3 pounds, or 1.2 percent of baseline weight.
• The second group lost, on average, 5.6 pounds or 3 percent of baseline weight.
• The third group lost, on average, 5.4 pounds or 3 percent of baseline weight.

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Based on the data the researchers determined that private Twitter weight-loss groups are both feasible and acceptable for many patients and appears to work best with those with the greatest familiarity with social media tools.

“This series of studies showed that using a private Twitter group as an adjunct or alternative to an in-person behavioral weight-loss program is feasible and acceptable in a sample of adults with obesity who did not have depression and who were regular users of social media, though inexperienced with Twitter,” stated Dr. Pagoto. “These findings have broad implications for delivering behavioral counseling interventions that tend to require numerous patient visits, which are logistically difficult for patients to attend or simply not covered by health insurance.”

Dr. Pagoto and her co-author colleagues concluded that additional research is needed to evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of online social network-delivered lifestyle interventions relative to traditional modalities.

For more on social media and connecting with others for weight loss help, here are two informative articles on how social media use may help you lose weight, and advice from a Life Coach on finding love and losing weight today.


University of Massachusetts Medical School “UMMS researchers find Twitter an effective weight loss tool for users of social media

Twitter-Delivered Behavioral Weight-Loss Interventions: A Pilot SeriesJournal of Medicine Internet Research (JMIR) Research Protocols 2015; 4 (4): e123; Sherry Pagoto, PhD et al.