In July 2023, virtual obesity management clinic Alfie Health launched a $2.1 million seed funding to scale its business. The company hopes to improve its weight loss platform, powered by artificial intelligence (AI). This is to efficiently conduct a metabolic profile of patients with precision medicine recommendations and suggestions for behavioral changes.
The proprietary ObesityRx system of Alfie Health is only one of the many applications of technology in obesity treatment and management in the 21st century. With its ability to improve accessibility, provide personalized interventions, and enhance motivation, technology has already shown itself able to revolutionize how we approach obesity.
Let’s take a closer look at the various technological advancements that positively impact obesity management today.
Obesity and obesity management
Many people think that obesity is merely excess weight. However, when comparing overweight vs obesity, a different picture emerges. Being overweight is one thing, it’s essential to understand that obesity is a medical condition. It is an abnormal physiological process characterized by excessive body fat accumulation and a BMI of 30 and above. This can easily lead to various dangerous health risks, from certain types of cancer, heart disease, gallstones, and gallbladder disease, to depression and anxiety.
That is why obesity management requires a comprehensive and holistic approach, whereas being overweight is typically manageable through lifestyle adjustments in diet and exercise. For instance, an overweight person can easily benefit from cardio exercises, such as swimming or burpees, due to their high caloric expenditure. Meanwhile, a person who is obese may require medical interventions to address underlying causes of weight gain, such as low metabolism or an inability to absorb specific vitamins that prevent their body from burning calories as quickly.
In more severe cases, bariatric surgery may be considered an option for obesity treatment. Surgical procedures like gastric bypass, sleeve, or banding can alter the digestive system, reducing food intake or nutrient absorption.
Technology in obesity management
Technology has opened new avenues in the management of obesity, offering innovative tools and approaches to support individuals in their weight loss journeys. One significant advancement is the rise of telehealth, which enables remote consultations with healthcare professionals. When combined with wearable devices and mobile health apps, telehealth allows individuals with obesity to access expert guidance, receive personalized recommendations, and track their progress conveniently, regardless of location.
These wearable devices, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, monitor various metrics, from steps taken, calories burned, and heart rate to sleep patterns. Otherwise, mobile applications offer features like food and exercise tracking, meal planning, and behavioral coaching, empowering individuals to set goals and receive educational resources or community. Researchers are improving these mediums’ integration with machine learning (ML) and AI for obesity care to become increasingly automated and personalized.
ML and AI, alongside virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), are emerging technologies that hold promise in obesity management. VR-based exercise programs provide immersive and engaging experiences, making physical activity more enjoyable, and 2020 research in Nutrients has already found significant weight loss results among individuals that used VR techniques, such as 3D avatars. Here, individuals lost an average of 4.7 kg and are noted to be more likely to further maintain or improve weight loss at a one-year follow-up. Otherwise, AR applications can assist individuals in making healthier food choices by overlaying nutritional information on real-world products, enhancing their awareness and decision-making.
Technology is revolutionizing the treatment and management of obesity, offering new tools and strategies to empower individuals on their weight loss journeys. By harnessing the power of technology, we can enhance accessibility, personalization, and motivation in the fight against obesity.