Saturday, December 26, 2015

How Does Mobile App Link Less Sleep To More Eating?

Smartphone has become an indispensable tool for many of us because a smartphone has apps for almost everything. One can use these apps to do many things, for instance, to check weather, to communicate with friends or to take and edit pictures. There are many health and fitness apps, too. One such food-related app called myCircaidianclock was created to collect, analyze, and interpret food data so as to aid research about when humans ate.

In a small study conducted by researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, more than 150 volunteers were asked to use the app (myCircaidianclock) to snap pictures of everything they ate and drank over a period of 3 weeks. These volunteers were healthy males and females between the ages of 21 and 55 who were not actively managing their diet and who did not go through any weight loss program in the past 6 months.

Most participants consumed food and drinks over about 15 hours of the day, taking in less than 25 percent of their calories before noon and more than 35 percent after 6 p.m. While most people think they just eat 3 meals and a snack or 2 within a 10-12 hour window, the researchers found the majority eat and drink over a very long time.

Eating or drinking over a longer stretch of waking hours and consuming more calories at night could confuse the body’s biological clock and might cause people to be obese and develop diabetes, fatty liver disease, high cholesterol, and even heart disease and stroke.

Based on the snapshots recorded, the researchers discovered what and when the volunteers ate, and under what circumstances. Their analysis showed that coffee was more common in the morning, while alcohol was more likely to appear at night. Tea was drunk throughout the day, and images of chocolate and candy made regular appearances from about 10 a.m. onward.

The app was also tested to see if it might help people eat less by encouraging them to consume food and drink over a shorter period of the day. 8 overweight people who tended to eat over more than 14 hours of the day were asked to cut back to 10 to 11 hours. After 16 weeks, these people lost about 3.5 percent of their excess body weight and reported sleeping better.

Unfortunately, the study was too small to draw any broad conclusions, acknowledged by researchers in their paper published online September 24, 2015 in ‘Cell Metabolism’. Though the study was not designed to prove if mobile apps or other forms of food tracking can actually help weight loss, the findings did build on a large body of research linking self-monitoring of dietary habits to weight loss.

Compared to paper diaries, smartphones can make self-monitoring easy. Mobile apps might also provide more real-time reminders in reaction to pictures or data supplied by dieters. Nevertheless, these tools still rely on people’s own motivation to interact with the technology.

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