Tech gadgets may help dieters achieve weight-loss goals

rimonabantDieting in the future will be "weight loss to go," with more people getting customized advice on their cell phones, personal digital assistants and computers and more companies delivering diet foods directly to homes.

So says Thomas Wadden, one of the nation's top obesity researchers and president of the Obesity Society.

Currently, 66 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese (30 or more pounds over a healthy weight), which increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other medical issues.

Research suggests that dieters benefit from getting nutritionists' advice via e-mails, chat rooms and phone calls, says Wadden, 54, a psychologist and director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Other nutrition experts agree. Busy people need portable tools like PDAs and cell phones to quickly get the information that will enable them to make the best food choices, especially in restaurants, says Deborah Tate, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Dieters can keep track of their food intake and exercise on PDAs, she says. "If these tools are convenient, people may be more likely to use them, and we know that monitoring these behaviors leads to greater weight loss."

Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers, says, "We still have lots to learn about how to use technology to enhance weight loss, but there is definite potential. These methods may hold particular promise for those adults who came of age in the world of technology." They are comfortable getting support from chat rooms, instant messaging and online food journals, she says.

Another modern tool that weight-loss experts discuss is pharmaceutical options. A few diet drugs are on the market and hundreds of new diet drugs are being tested, but there is no miracle medication coming out anytime soon, Wadden says.

The next diet drug that is likely to get government approval is rimonabant, expected to be OK'd in 2007, he says.

Studies show that patients who take it lose about 8 percent to 9 percent of their starting weight, about the same amount lost by taking sibutramine, marketed as Meridia. Another prescription diet drug, orlistat, is being considered for over-the-counter status.

"The exciting news is that we have learned a lot more about how food intake is regulated by the brain," Wadden says. "Scientists have identified a set of chemicals in the brain that increase appetite and ones that decrease it."

Wadden says that while medications have an important role, most people are overweight because of lifestyle. For them, the best advice is to start walking, reduce portions and start eating more fruit and vegetables.

"Medications can make it easier for people to adhere to a healthier diet, but ultimately we're going to have to tackle the environment that's making weight control so tough for two-thirds of our citizens."

WINNING AT LOSING

Obesity researcher Thomas Wadden advises people to:

PLAN THEIR MEALS. People are most likely to be successful if they have structured meal plans that include foods they enjoy in moderate portions.

KEEP IT SIMPLE. Wadden tells patients to eat the same breakfast every day, limiting it to about 300 calories. He also suggests they rotate among several lunches (about 400 calories each) and dinners that are about 500 calories.

DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO HAVE A DAILY TREAT. Some people allot 100 calories a day for a sweet or salty treat. It keeps them from feeling deprived. Others say one treat can be their undoing. You have to decide.

HAVE CLEAR GOALS. Wadden suggests that women give themselves a month to lose 5 pounds. Men can set a 7- to 8-pound goal for the month.

FIGURE OUT THE BEST SUPPORT SYSTEM. Some people like to diet alone; some like social support.

source - Delaware online