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SNUH to use digital tech to treat obesity

Hit : 153 Date : 2020-05-22

A research team at Seoul National University Hospital has developed a digital cognitive behavioral therapy, which combines cognitive behavioral therapy and digital technology, to treat obesity.

Obesity is a common disease experienced by one in three people, and the rate is steadily increasing. As the disease can cause diabetes, hypertension, stroke, gout, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, it requires active treatment. Patients undergo drugs, surgery, diet, and exercise to treat obesity. However, these methods have had limitations in treating obesity effectively, as they failed to treat the underlying cause of the disease.

A recent research result on digital cognitive behavioral therapy has shown promising results in overcoming the limitations of existing treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy treats obesity by correcting lifestyles based on digital platforms, such as Noom and Inbody.

To get a better understanding of the efficacy of the treatment, the team, led by Professor Choi Hyung-jin, conducted a study on 70 adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 24 or higher. The team divided the patients into two groups -- group A, where behavioral psychiatrists treated the patients alongside digital cognitive behavioral therapy, and group B, where patients only received digital cognitive behavioral therapy -- and observed changes for eight weeks.

In the case of group A, the team conducted a quantitative and qualitative real-time monitoring through a digital platform for multidimensional factors, including emotions, cognition, and motivation, as well as behaviors such as eating habits and activity. The patients also received personalized psychotherapy every day.

As a result, the group showed significant weight loss compared to group B.

Also, the team saw a significant reduction in leptin and insulin resistance associated with body fat mass and obesity in patients compared to group B, while group A showed a consistently higher level of treatment compliance than group B in the eight-week treatment period.

Weight loss also continued six months after treatment, confirming that digital treatment not only has an effect on losing weight but also maintaining it without a yo-yo effect.

"To increase the effectiveness of digital therapeutics, it is important to screen the patient's mental health condition, select suitable therapeutic elements, and then begin treatment," Professor Choi said. "If there is a problem, medical professionals should immediately take steps such as treating depression or carry out motivational screening and conduct digital therapeutics."

The journal JMIR mHealth and uHealth has published the results of the study.

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