Trials Use Technology to Help Young Adults Achieve Healthy Weights

November 29, 2010 -- Sometime in the first half of 2011, nearly 400 overweight or obese university students will be recruited by researchers at the University of California, San Diego to test if technology can help the young adults lose weight.

UCSD School of Medicine professor Kevin Patrick is the principal investigator on the SMART clinical trial, and director of Calit2's Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems.
UC San Diego is one of seven sites selected to undertake clinical  trials that combine behavioral weight management programs with technologies such as text messaging, online social networking, and smart-phone apps. In San Diego, the Social/Mobile Approaches to Reducing Weight (SMART) trial will feature mobile phones, Facebook and the Internet, and the trial will be carried out by researchers based in the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems (CWPHS), part of the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

Funding for all the trials aimed at engaging young adults in protecting their future heart health is from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"These studies have the potential to teach us about successfully engaging young adults in achieving a healthy weight at a critical time in their lives," said Susan B. Shurin, M.D., acting director of the NHLBI. "Learning effective strategies for weight management further empowers young adults to protect their future heart health. These studies are designed to provide evidence to help us guide young adults toward approaches that work and allow them to choose the options that work best for them."

The Early Adult Reduction of Weight through Lifestyle Intervention (EARLY) Trials seek to prevent weight gain and promote weight loss among young adults, defined as ages 18-35, through healthy eating and physical activity. The trials are receiving a total of $36 million over five years and are partially supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems staff, including SMART Program Manager Anjali Kansagara (third from right) and project staff Jamielle Walker (fourth from left) and Aaron Coleman (second from right)
"We expect the use of technology will help us reach young adults at risk of weight gain and inspire them to stay at a healthy weight," said trials steering committee chair Leslie Lytle, Ph.D., who is leading a trial that features Web-based social networking among community college students.
Previous NHLBI research has shown that people aged 18-49 gain an average of 1-2 pounds each year, with the largest weight gain of 3 pounds per year occurring in 20-29-year-olds. Such weight gain can lead to high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Few studies have examined how to effectively engage this high-risk age group in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

The following individual trials will help reach young adults aged 18-35:

The trial teams have completed initial research on the best ways to recruit young adults and keep them active in the proposed trials. Some have now begun to recruit participants for the two-year, randomized, controlled clinical trials. All seven trials are expected to start enrollment by spring 2011.
Although each trial is slightly different and will be conducted at a single institution, the teams are using a set of common measures and questionnaires so they can better compare their findings when the trials are complete.

"Comparing findings and pooling data from all seven studies will maximize what the research community learns about developing strategies to address weight control among young adults," said Catherine Loria, Ph.D., a nutritional epidemiologist in the NHLBI's Division of Cardiovascular Sciences.

People interested in participating in one of the trials are encouraged to contact each site directly.
More information can be found at

To schedule an interview with an NHLBI spokesperson, contact the NHLBI Communications Office at 301-496-4236 or


Related Links

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems

Media Contacts

 NHLBI Communications Office, 301-496-4236, or Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,