Table 1

Characteristics of included studies

Author, year (country)Target populationObjectives (length of intervention)Social media interventionComparisonPrimary outcome measure
Booth, 2008 (Australia)13Overweight and obese adultsDetermine whether an Internet-based, online weight reduction programme that includes dietary advice plus exercise would be more effective in reducing weight and results in more positive lifestyle changes than an exercise only programme (12 weeks)Discussion board as part of a website to record daily steps and set dietary goals with exercise and diet recommendation (n enrolled=40, n completed=27, n analysed=27)Discussion board as part of a website with exercise recommendations (n enrolled=33, n completed=26, n analysed=26)BMI (kg/m2; objective outcome)
Brindal, 2012 (Australia)14Overweight and obese adultsDetermine whether supportive features and personalisation in a web-based lifestyle intervention affect retention and weight loss (12 weeks)Social support through a social networking programme as part of an interactive website that provided dietary information, interactive tools such as real-time dietary compliance visualisations and an interactive meal planner (n enrolled=3935, n completed=206, n analysed=1281)Non-interactive online weight loss programme (n enrolled=183, n completed=16, n analysed=53)Body weight (% of initial weight; self-reported outcome)
Carr, 2013 (USA)15Healthy sedentary adultsTest the efficacy of the newly enhanced Internet intervention in relation to six reputable, publicly available physical activity promoting websites (6 months)A discussion forum with an expert moderator as part of a website with tailored, motivational physical activity messages after completing monthly online questionnaires, physical activity tracking and goal setting calendar, regular peer activity updates and exercise videos (n enrolled=25, n completed=23, n analysed=25)Access to a list of six reputable, publicly available physical activity-promoting websites that have been demonstrated to increase physical activity and successfully retain participants. Discussion boards included (n enrolled=28, n completed=22, n analysed=28)Physical activity levels (min/week; self-reported outcome)
Cavallo, 2012 (USA)16Female undergraduate studentsTest the efficacy of a physical activity intervention that combined education, physical activity monitoring and online social networking to increase social support for physical activity (12 weeks)An intervention-related Facebook group in addition to a website containing educational information related to physical activity and a self-monitoring tool that allowed participants to set goals, track their daily physical activity and view a chart depicting their progress relative to their goal and to national recommendations for physical activity (n enrolled=67, n completed=56, n analysed=67)Limited version of the study website without self-monitoring features and emails throughout the study with links to news stories relating to physical activity shared in the intervention's Facebook group. (n enrolled=67, n completed=64, n analysed=67)Perceived informational social support (Chogahara's Social Influence on Physical Activity questionnaire; self-reported outcome)
Celio, 2005 (USA)17Overweight or obese 12–18-year-oldsEvaluate the efficacy of an Internet-delivered approach for targeting weight loss, body dissatisfaction and reduction of eating disordered behaviours in an overweight adolescent sample (16 weeks)A discussion board as part of a website with psychoeducational materials and online food, physical activity, weight and body image journals (n enrolled=32, n completed=30, n analysed=30)Typical care: basic information on nutrition and physical activity and instructions to see a physician as necessary (n enrolled=29, n completed=28, n analysed=28)BMI (kg/m2; objective outcome)
DeBar, 2009 (USA)1814–16-year-old girls with BMI below national averageTest the effectiveness of a lifestyle intervention to increase bone mineral density (2 years)Bulletin board as part of a website for participants to communicate with one another and with staff (calcium/bone density specific messaging; n enrolled=113, n completed=98, n analysed=101)Access to a different general health promotion website with a social media component (n enrolled=115, n completed=102, n analysed=108)Bone mineral density (kg/m2; objective outcome)
Ferney, 2009 (Australia)19Inactive adultsEvaluate the use of a local neighbourhood-focused physical activity website on walking and overall physical activity in middle-aged adults (26 weeks)Discussion board as part of a neighbourhood-focused website with fact sheets, links to relevant websites, an interactive goal-setting tool, a database and calendar of local opportunities for physical activity, individualised email advice, and biweekly news (n enrolled=56, n completed=48, n analysed=48)Motivational physical activity website with minimal interactivity (n enrolled=57, n completed=45, n analysed=45)Physical activity levels (min/week; self-reported outcome)
van Genugten, 2012 (Netherlands)20Overweight adultsEvaluate the efficacy of the programme in weight-related anthropometric measures and energy balance-related behavioursDiscussion board as part of a website that provided learning modules covering goal setting and coping, recipes and links to useful websites (n enrolled=269, n completed=161, n analysed=239)Modules covering general information on weight gain prevention (n enrolled=270, n completed=151, n analysed=241)BMI (kg/m2) at 6 months (objective outcome)
Gold, 2007 (USA)21Overweight and obese adultsInvestigate the effectiveness of a structured behavioural weight loss website (VTrim) vs a commercial weight loss website ( (12 months)A discussion board as part of a therapist-led Internet intervention including online weekly chats, online journaling and behaviour modification lessons (n enrolled=60, n completed=40 n analysed=40)A discussion board as part of a website intervention including tailored meal and exercise plans, recipes, journaling, FAQs and chat rooms (n enrolled=62, n completed=n=48)Body weight (kg; objective outcome)
Gow, 2010 (USA)22Healthy first year college students aged 22 or youngerDetermine whether the intervention resulted in lower BMI increases after 10 weeks than the control (6 weeks, 3 month follow-up was intended; however, authors did not report results due to high attrition)Weight and caloric feedback via email with online intervention: discussion board environment to communicate with peers (n enrolled=40, n completed=NR, n analysed=40)No treatment (n enrolled=40, n completed=NR, n analysed=40)BMI (kg/m2; objective outcome)
Harvey-Berino, 2004 (USA)23Overweight and obese adultsInvestigate the efficacy of an Internet weight maintenance programme (6-month intervention,18-months maintenance)Discussion group as part of an Internet intervention including therapist-led problem-solving discussions and biweekly email contact with the therapist where participants reported weight, dietary intake and exercise (n enrolled=77, n completed=52, n analysed=52)Participants randomised to the M-IPS condition continued to meet in-person over ITV, monthly, for the first 6 months of the 12-month weight maintenance condition. At these meetings, weight was measured and participants attended an hour-long weight maintenance support group. They were encouraged to continue self-monitoring, although their diaries were not reviewed by the therapist. Participants in this group were not contacted between monthly meetings and there was no contact from months 7–12 (n enrolled=78, n completed=63, n analysed=63)Body weight (kg; objective outcome)
Hurling, 2007 (UK)24Healthy adultsEvaluate the impact of a physical activity programme based on the Internet and mobile phone technology (9 weeks)Discussion board as part of an intervention including tailored solutions for perceived barriers, a schedule to plan weekly exercise sessions with mobile phone and email reminders, and real-time accelerometer feedback (n enrolled=47, n completed=47, n analysed=47)Verbal support (n enrolled=30, n completed=30, n analysed=30)Physical activity (minutes spent in metabolic equivalent ranges (MET) of greater than three indicating moderate physical activity per week; objective measure)
Lao, 2011 (USA)259th and 10th grade studentsEvaluate the impact and feasibility of Individual Nutrition Health Plans (8 weeks)Nutrition curriculum administered through text, Facebook and Twitter (including a social networking group to promote the chosen health goal and weekly motivational tweets; n enrolled=106, n completed=81, n analysed=70)No treatment comparison group (data were not analysed for this study; n enrolled=86, n completed=57, n analysed=36)Health behaviour assessed from baseline (beverage choice, physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption OR fast food behaviours; self-report)
Micco, 2007 (USA)26Overweight and obese adultsDetermine whether the Internet can stand alone as a vehicle to deliver behavioural obesity treatment or whether the addition of limited in-person support is more effective (12 months)Once a month in person meetings along with website access to a discussion board, lessons, eating guides, contests, a journaling feature and progressive charts (n enrolled=61, n completed=38, n analysed=61)Once a month online chat meetings along with website access to a discussion board, eating guides, contests, a journaling feature and progressive charts (n enrolled=62, n completed=39, n analysed=62)Body weight (kg; objective outcome)
Morgan, 2011 (Australia)27Overweight and obese menDetermine whether men were able to maintain weight loss 9-month postintervention and to comprehensively evaluate the programme by collecting information regarding the experience of men taking part in the trial (3 months)A discussion board as part of an Internet intervention including weight and diet monitoring with feedback and one face-to-face information session on weight loss (n enrolled=34, n completed=26, n analysed=34)One separate face-to-face information session on weight loss (n enrolled=31, n completed=20, n analysed=31)Body weight (kg; objective outcome)
Pullen, 2008 (USA)28Overweight and obese rural women aged 50–69 yearsEvaluate feasibility and efficacy of using Internet weight loss interventions to promote weight loss, healthy eating and physical activity (3 months)Discussion board as part of a website that provided an eating plan, self-monitoring tools and weekly newsletters (n enrolled=11, n completed=8, n analysed=8)Access to a website that provided an eating plan, self-monitoring tools and weekly newsletters (n enrolled=10, completed=8, n analysed=8)Body weight (lbs; objective outcome)
Rydell, 2005 (USA)29Preadolescent girl scouts aged 10–12 yearsIncrease bone mass gains among 10–12-year-old girls through increasing calcium-rich food intake and weight-bearing physical activity (2 years)Discussion board as part of an interactive website with games, news, recipes and a calendar along with intervention specific messaging at girl scout meetings (n enrolled=15 troupes, n completed=15 troupes, n analysed=15 troupes)No intervention (n enrolled=15 troupes, n completed=15 troupes, n analysed=15 troupes)Change in bone mineral content (g; objective outcome)
Spittaels, 2007 (Belgium)30Healthy adultsExamine if a website-delivered physical activity intervention can improve physical activity in the general population (6 months)A discussion board as part of a website with tailored physical activity advice, goal setting, weekly plan, strength and flexibility exercises, start-to-run programme, links, contact information and emails to invite participants to view other relevant websites (n enrolled=173, n completed=103, n analysed=173)Wait-list control group (n enrolled=132, n completed=104, n analysed=132)Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels (min/week; self-reported outcome)
Tate, 2001 (USA)31Healthy overweight adultsDetermine whether a structured Internet behavioural weight loss programme produces greater initial weight loss and changes in waist circumference than a weight loss education website (6 months)A bulletin board to facilitate social support, a weekly dietary and physical activity self-report diary, the ability to contact a therapist, and weekly lesson emails in addition to the control treatment (n enrolled=46, n completed=33, n analysed=32)A 1 h lesson on behavioural weight control, a website containing a brief review of basic information related to weight loss and an organised directory of selected Internet resources about diet, exercise, self monitoring and other resources (n enrolled=45, n completed=32, n analysed=30)Body weight (kg; objective outcome)
Tate, 2006 (USA)32Overweight and obese adultsDetermine the short-term efficacy of a self-directed Internet weight loss programme compared with the same programme supplemented with behavioural counselling from either a computer-automated tailored system or from a human counsellor (6 months)Discussion board as part of a website that provided feedback emails, weekly reporting and graphs of weight, weekly email prompts to report weight, weekly weight loss tips via email, recipes and a weight loss ebuddy network system (n enrolled=64, n completed=52, n analysed=64)Access to website with weekly reporting and graphs of weight, weekly email prompts to report weight, weekly weight loss tips via email, recipes and a weight loss ebuddy network system (n enrolled=67, n completed=59, n analysed=67)Body weight (kg; objective outcome)
Webber, 2010 (USA)33Overweight or obese womenExamine changes in motivation and the relationship of motivation to adherence to self-monitoring and weight loss in an Internet behavioural weight-loss intervention (16 weeks)Weekly group chat in addition to the control intervention (n enrolled=33, n completed=33, n analysed=33)Weekly weight loss tips, weekly lesson postings, a message board feature and links to self-help diet, exercise, behavioural modification resources available on the web, plus a personal online self-monitoring report (n enrolled=33, n completed=32, n analysed=33)Body weight (kg; objective outcome)
Womble, 2004 (USA)34Overweight and obese womenAssess the efficacy of a commercial Internet weight loss programme in improving weight, cardiovascular health and quality of life (4 months)Discussion board as part of a website with a virtual dietician, email reminders, goal setting and email newsletters (n enrolled=23, n completed=15, n analysed=23)Weight loss manual (n enrolled=24, n completed=16, n analysed=24)Body weight (kg; objective outcome)
  • BMI, body mass index, FAQ, frequently asked questions; ITV, interactive television; M-IPS, minimal in-person support.