Does Noom Work? We Asked 7 Dietitians

Does Noom Work? We Asked 7 Dietitians


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Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. All statements are merely the opinion of the writer(s) and quoted medical experts. We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to weight loss.

Noom is arguably the most popular weight loss app. The app provides personalized advice, one-on-one training and diet tracking, and is backed by more than one clinical trial.

But is Noom proven to work? Does the program have any issues from a health perspective? What do registered dietitians think about Noom? And is the program worth the money?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we interview seven registered dietitians (RDs) and highlight four potential issues with Noom's model: low calorie limits, some healthy foods being disallowed, a lack of medical credentials for Noom Health Coaches, and potential eating disorder risks.

We'll discuss whether or not Noom is worth the money and whether or not the program is likely to work.

Very Low Calorie Limits

Dietitian Caitlin Mudd doesn’t believe that Noom is sustainable long-term because of the “very low” calorie limits. 

Caitlin notes that the calorie limits are usually around 1200 calories, which is not enough for an adult's energy needs.” 

Given that average caloric maintenance levels are at or over 2,000 calories for both adult men and women, and likely even higher for overweight adults, this advice seems sound.

When people trying to lose weight restrict calories too much, they can suffer from cravings that lead to binging which counteracts any short-term benefit. “It is these exact requirements that research has shown to lead to food preoccupation, more cravings for food, overeating and binge eating,” says Caitlin.

Dietitian Britt Bailey says that she’s worked with clients who experienced metabolic issues due to Noom’s low calorie limits:

“I've had to help many clients recover from drastic calorie ranges that were suggested by Noom. They were left with metabolic imbalances and excessive weight gain.”

The takeaway here for dieters is that more moderate caloric reductions may be the best long-term, sustainable approach for weight loss.

Healthy Foods are Disallowed

Noom food rating system example

Noom grades foods on a rating system, as shown above. Foods with a “green” rating have no daily calorie allotment, while “yellow” and “red” foods do.

But some dietitians we spoke with suggested that this rating system is unscientific and illogical, because it disincentivizes people from eating otherwise healthy foods.

Veronica Rouse RD provides an example of two healthy foods that are given a “yellow” rating by Noom: 

“For example, one way to reduce cholesterol levels is to include vegetarian protein (like tofu and beans) in the diet.

These foods are rich in soluble fiber, low in saturated fat, high in protein and a good source of vitamins and minerals. However, these foods are classified as yellow in Noom, and therefore may be eaten less often or viewed as less healthy based on this rating.

Dietitian Lauren Slayon agrees and shares two other healthy foods that are “red” on Noom:

“nuts and avocado are ‘red’ foods and this is based on calorie density. Sadly, for a relatively recently developed platform this is outdated reasoning. What about satiety? Glucose response? Longevity? Discouraging these foods is worrisome.”

Eating a wide variety of whole foods at a moderate caloric deficit, and not arbitrarily cutting any out, appears to be the best approach for dieters.

Medical Credential Issues

Surprisingly to us, Noom doesn’t seem to require that their “Health Coaches” have relevant medical credentials like RD or medical doctor (MD).

This makes their authority to provide research-based health advice questionable in our opinion. Most dietitians we spoke to agreed.

Sydney Nitzkorski RD made it clear that consumers would be better off seeking weight loss advice from a credentialed source: “Graduating from 4 weeks of ‘noomiversity’ is not the same as the 2-3 years required to become an RD.”

Veronica Rouse RD disagrees and states that although Noom Health Coaches aren’t required to be doctors or RDs, they do have some relevant expertise and experience, and are better-credentialed than the average weight loss app coach:

Their coaches need to complete coach training through Noom.  This training is recognized by an organization (International Consortium for Health and Wellness Training) that trains other health coaches.

These coaches also need to have a degree in a related area like nutrition or coaching and have 2,000 hours of experience. This is better than most weight loss programs.

While getting health advice from a coach with a relevant degree and experience is definitely better than getting health advice from someone without, we would recommend that individuals trying to lose weight work with an RD or MD, as they will have completed thousands of hours of medical training.

Eating Disorder Risks

Adhering to a rigid diet may be unsafe for certain people. “Noom is not safe for individuals who are at risk or have experienced disordered eating,” says Veronica.

Because of food categorization requirements and negative associations with certain foods, she believes using the app could cause “long term physical and emotional health issues.” 

Sydney agrees, and explains that while she believes Noom is safe for most people, “I do not recommend it for those with more serious and sensitive medical conditions such as eating disorders.”

Individuals struggling with an eating disorder, or who have past disordered eating habits, may benefit from a more individualized approach. We would recommend that these patients seek expert counseling from an RD with experience working with such patients.

Veronica also brings up a great point about how Noom could improve the user experience of their app to mitigate this risk:

“When signing up for Noom they ask each participant a few health questions, but the initial questionnaire does not assess if individuals are at risk for disordered eating or have a history of disordered eating.”

If Noom would add this screening filter to their intake form, they could potentially improve the health and safety of users with eating disorders.

Noom could then refer these "high-risk" patients to specialists, or even offer them a separate service with qualified RDs. We agree with the dietitians quoted that Noom should make more of an effort in this regard.

Takeaway: Does Noom Work?

Our opinion is that Noom is likely to cause weight loss in the average individual, because one-on-one coaching is clinically shown to cause greater weight loss than self-directed dieting, and because any diet that restricts calories below maintenance should cause weight loss.

Noom is also clinically shown to work in more than one trial published in peer-reviewed medical journals, which is the gold standard of health research.

However, Noom may not be the best option for individuals with a history of eating disorders, and may not be the best option for individuals prioritizing health and nutrition.

Is Noom Worth the Money?

Noom's price depends on the plan chosen, but according to their site a one-month plan is $70 at the time of updating this article.

Plenty of people would be happy to pay that much for guaranteed weight loss, but some of the dietitians we spoke with believe you can get the same value for free.

Christine Byrne RD recommends using free tracking tools over Noom, because she doesn’t believe the app provides significant value justifying the price: “There are plenty of free food and calorie trackers out there, and the ‘lessons’ are made up of information that you can find for free online.”

Dietitian Noah Quezada recommends a few other free online tracking tools over Noom: “No, Noom is a fancy calorie tracking app. You can find a similar one for free like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer.

Some RDs do believe the pricing is fair. “Noom is an non personalized app that provides you access to a coach with daily checklists for a reasonable price,” says Veronica.

In our opinion, Noom is fairly priced given that it provides 1-on-1 coaching. We don’t believe it will provide as much value or expertise as working with an RD, but it’s also priced lower.

Our Clean Weight Loss Picks

There are food-based nutrients which have been shown in medical studies to be effective for weight loss.

Dietary fiber was shown in a medical review published in The Journal of Nutrition to cause 16 pounds of weight loss in 6 months when combined with moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline).

MBG Organic Fiber Potency+ is our top fiber pick because it's certified organic, provides 7 g of fiber per serving and costs under $1.85 per serving at the time of updating this article.

MCT oil was shown in a meta-study to cause more than one pound of weight loss over 10 weeks. This equates to potential annualized weight loss of 6 pounds per year with less than one tablespoon's worth of MCT oil per day.

Bulletproof MCT Oil is our top MCT oil product, because the only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts. and it currently costs only $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.

Ginger intake "significantly decreased body weight" according to a 2019 meta-study on ginger and weight loss that analyzed data from 14 clinical trials.

Pique La Ginger is our top ginger product, because it's an organic tea in convenient crystallized form, and all that's needed is to pour the powder into a glass and add hot water.

All three of the products mentioned in this section are entirely free of additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

While Noom was proven effective in an extensive medical study involving over 35,000 patients that was published in the Scientific Reports journal, its methodology may have some flaws based on the expertise of several RDs quoted in this article.

Noom sets limits on some healthy foods like nuts and avocados, and its rating system may put people with a history of eating disorders at risk.

Noom may be a good option for individuals with a weight loss goal who can’t afford to work with an RD, but we would generally recommend seeking diet advice from an MD or RD instead of "health coaches" from an app.

If you’re interested in a research-based analysis of the science behind Noom, along with a more thorough breakdown of the clinical trials funded by the company, check out our Noom reviews article.