Johns Hopkins study: coaching app Sweetch can increase weight loss, activity in prediabetes patients

By Laura Lovett
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A recent Johns Hopkins study found that prediabetic patients who used the interactive mobile coaching program Sweetch lost weight and increased physical activity.
 
The study, , found that participant lost a mean 3.5 pounds and significantly improved weekly physical activity over the course of the three-month trial. Participants also saw a decrease in HBa1C or glycated hemoglobin levels, although the researchers did not find any significant change in fasting blood glucose level.
 
"The fact that the study demonstrated both weight and A1C reductions at only three months suggests that long-term effects will be comparable, if not superior, to existing interventions,” Dr. Nestoras Mathioudakis, clinical director of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Johns Hopkins and the study's leader, said in a statement. “Most importantly, Sweetch's machine learning technology enables fully automated intervention; hence, supporting larger-scale deployment with greater cost-effectiveness potential when compared with human-based diabetes prevention solutions."
 
The Sweetch app uses artificial intelligence to personalize interventions for users. It is designed to promote adherence to physical activity as well as weight reductions and diet guidelines for people with prediabetes, according to the study. While the app can address multiple chronic conditions, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity, in this study it focused solely on prediabetes.
 
“Prediabetes, a high-risk state for future Type 2 diabetes, is a global epidemic with increasing prevalence in both developing and developed countries,” researchers in the study wrote. “Among adults, the prevalence of prediabetes in the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and India is 33.9 percent, 35.3 percent, 35.7 percent, and 10.3 percent, respectively. Considering that the complications associated with Type 2 diabetes begin at the prediabetes stage and that more than half of individuals with prediabetes will eventually develop diabetes, efforts are urgently needed to intervene on this high-risk population.”
 
Study participants were originally split into two groups: one group received only the Sweetch app, and the other group got the Sweetch app combined with digital body weight scale. However, researchers noted early in the study that the scale was necessary for app calibration, so the design was changed to a single-arm observational study with all participants received both the app and the scale. 
 
In addition to the overall health outcomes researchers studied feasibility, acceptability, and safety of the app. Feasibility was measured by retention rate, which in the end came to 86 percent; 55 participants, of that 47 finished the trial. Particpants gave feedback on the app, reporting a mean system of usability score of 78 percent, with 74 percent of participants reporting that they like to use the Sweetch app frequently. No injuries or emergency room visits were associated with the app.
 
“The Sweetch mobile platform was well received by participants and was effective at increasing PA and reducing body weight and A1c over three months without any adverse effects,” researchers wrote in the study. “The study results are promising, but future studies will be required to confirm the sustainability of these findings over a longer follow-up period.”

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