Researchers from the Imperial College London compiled data from 12 studies spread across US, Europe, east Asia and Australia which trialed social networking services for weight loss, involving a total of 1,884 participants.

The results showed that people who used these services achieved a collective decrease in body mass index (BMI) by a value of 0.64, which the authors describe as modest but significant.

"One advantage of using social media is that it offers the potential to be much more cost-effective and practical for day-to-day use when compared to traditional approaches," said lead study author Dr. Hutan Ashrafian, from the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London.

"It is not the only solution to the obesity epidemic but it should be introduced as an element of every country's counter obesity strategy," Dr. Ashrafian noted.

The paper, published in the journal Health Affairs, was one of 10 reports on global healthcare policy written for the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), an initiative of Qatar Foundation.

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