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 legitimate medical research.

But whether a dieting app is likely to work depends a lot on the individual, so we asked seven Registered Dietitians (RDs) to give their take on Noom. Here are some of the most interesting takeaways.

Unsustainably 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 personally 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 reductions in calories seems to be the best long-term sustainable approach.

Some Healthy Foods Are Disallowed

Noom food rating system example

Noom grades foods on a rating system: 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) more often. 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.

Noom Health Coaches Aren’t Necessarily Medical Experts

Surprisingly to us, Noom doesn’t seem to require that their “Health Coaches” have 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 2000 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 people seeking long-term weight loss work only with an RD or MD, as they will have completed thousands of hours more specific training.

Noom’s Restrictive Diet May Trigger Eating Disorder

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 the constant need for food categorization 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. They could refer such 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, and that it’s unsafe for them to continue to recommend their app to patients with eating disorders.

Takeaway: Does Noom Work?

Our opinion is that Noom is likely to work for the average patient, because one-on-one coaching has improved clinical outcomes compared with self-directed dieting, and because any diet that restricts calories below maintenance should cause weight loss.

However, we don't recommend Noom overall due to some of the concerns outlined in this article.

Is Noom Worth The Money?

Noom pricing depends on the plan, but according to their site a one-month plan is $60. 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 Weight Loss Supplement Recommendations

There exist several weight loss supplements with significant clinical backing in terms of both efficacy and safety. We're not suggesting these supplements are as effective as Noom for weight loss; just that they have impressive efficacy and safety profiles, as documented below.

We recommend dietary fiber as a safe and effective weight loss supplement, especially when combined with caloric restriction.

landmark medical study found that moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline) combined with dietary fiber intake (a minimum of 20 grams per day) caused an average weight loss of 16.03 pounds over 6 months. That’s a pace of 32 pounds per year of weight loss in overweight individuals simply by adding fiber to a moderately-restricted-calorie diet.

The fiber supplement we recommend is SuperGut Fiber Mix. It contains a clean and effective formulation: a blend of three different types of unflavored dietary fiber and zero additive ingredients. It can be mixed into liquids or foods. Interested consumers can buy SuperGut fiber at this link.

We recommend using two fiber mixes per day, which provides 16 grams (g) of total fiber. Diet should provide the remaining fiber necessary to meet the 20 g minimum threshold.

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is another dietary supplement which has been shown in clinical trials to cause weight loss.

MCT oil is quickly absorbed by the body and increases metabolic rate, which causes fat loss. A meta-study on MCT oil documented weight loss of 1.12 pounds over 10 weeks. This equates to a potential annualized weight loss of 5.84 pounds with MCT oil supplementation.

We recommend Bulletproof MCT Oil as our top MCT oil product, because it has a clean and effective formulation. The only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts, and the product has no questionable additives. Interested consumers can buy Bulletproof MCT Oil at this link.

The effective dose range of MCT oil for weight loss (based on the medical review) is 1.7 g to 10 g per day. Bulletproof's MCT oil provides 14 g in one tablespoon, so around two-thirds of one tablespoon should be a maximally-effective dosage.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

While Noom is proven effective on average based on 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 a consumer seeking weight loss 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.



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