A new study indicates that using Twitter can be a valuable tool for people who want to lose weight.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health, found that people who used the micro-blogging network to share dieting information and support one another's efforts were more successful than those using other social networking platforms.
Researchers followed 96 overweight and obese men and women living in a metropolitan area over a six-month period.
All participants were required to own one of four types of Internet-capable mobile devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry or an Android-based phone. Participants were randomly assigned to either the podcast-only (Podcast) or podcast, plus enhanced mobile media intervention (Podcast + mobile) groups.
The podcasts included information about nutrition and exercise, goal-setting and even an audio soap opera. In addition to the podcasts, the Podcast + mobile group downloaded a diet and physical activity monitoring application (app) and a Twitter app to their mobile device.
Both Podcast only and Podcast + mobile participants achieved a 2.7 percent weight loss at six months.
But those who engaged with Twitter were more successful at losing weight, such that every 10 posts to Twitter corresponded with approximately a 0.5 percent weight loss.
"Traditional behavioral weight loss interventions generally provide social support through weekly, face-to-face group meetings," said Brie Turner-McGrievy of the Arnold School's Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior. "While we know this is effective, it is costly and can create a high degree of burden on participants."
She added, "Providing group support through online social networks can be a low cost way to reach a large number of people who are interested in achieving a healthy weight."