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Arnold School of Public Health

New study helps participants lose weight through free, remote 12-month program

March 9, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

Just months after receiving a $3.4 million award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to add cultural relevance to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, nutrition and mHealth researcher Brie Turner-McGrievy has been awarded an additional $3.2 million from the same agency to lead another project focused on behavioral weight loss interventions. With the new grant, the health promotion, education, and behavior associate professor will leverage innovative technology and social support to help adults with overweight and obesity lose weight and help prevent associated chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

“Our research has shown that behavioral weight loss programs that provide, encourage or facilitate social support are associated with greater adherence to treatment,” Turner-McGrievy says. “Social support can also help to encourage consistent dietary self-monitoring, which is considered the cornerstone of weight loss treatment and an important component of interventions targeting type 2 diabetes prevention and management.”

Numerous studies have examined the behavioral changes needed to improve nutrition and physical activity, and others have proven the effectiveness of social support in face-to-face settings in making these health-related changes. However, there has been limited research on how to achieve the effectiveness of in-person support in other settings (e.g., online), which would increase access to these essential programs.

Our research has shown that behavioral weight loss programs that provide, encourage or facilitate social support are associated with greater adherence to treatment.

-Brie Turner-McGrievy, associate professor of health promotion, education, and behavior

Turner-McGrievy’s previous research has identified the key features of face-to-face settings that make them so effective at providing social support and examines ways to translate these features so that they can be replicated in alternative contexts. The TecHealth deputy director’s work also investigates fitness and nutrition technologies (e.g., apps, wearable activity trackers).

The present study builds on this research by testing an intervention that uses self-monitoring technologies and online social support. An extension of the successful pilot study, Social Pounds Off Digitally (Social POD), the mLife study offers adults with overweight and obesity (ages 18-65) an opportunity to lose weight and improve their health through a free, remote 12-month program.

Administered through the UofSC Prevention Research Center, the mLife study asks participants to use their Android or iPhone (with an up-to-date data plan) to track meals using the mLife app, physical activity using a FitBit, and weight using a Fibit scale (Fitbit equipment will be provided if needed). Participants will listen to two podcasts each week, read one in-app tip per day, and use the mLife app, which encourages and facilitates social support among the group members. They will also be asked to complete online surveys and will receive up to $100 for their participation in the study.

You can learn more about this study and others led by Turner-McGrievy and her team by reviewing past and present Behavioral Research in Eating (BRIE) Lab projects. In addition to the ongoing DG3D study, which aims to reduce the risk of diabetes among African Americans by adding cultural relevance to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the BRIE Lab has completed numerous studies assessing various technologies, comparing diets, and investigating other health-related topics, particularly for vulnerable and underserved groups. 


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