Health apps may help you to keep fit but experts warn against them

Health apps may help you to keep fit but experts warn against them

By AUDREY EDWARDS

PETALING JAYA: Thousands of apps are now available for smartphone users to download onto their devices, many of which can help them keep track of their health. But doctors and other experts have warned against over-reliance on these software applications.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr S.R. Manalan advised the public to always consult a healthcare professional before using such apps, and not after.

The same precaution holds when getting information from the Internet, he said.

“Some apps have been put there only to make money. It’s difficult to tell which are good.”

A check on mobile devices revealed that there are almost 7,000 health and fitness apps in the country, among them software applications that offer programmes such as dieting and weight management and the monitoring of ailments like diabetes, heart condition and sleep disorder.

The apps can be downloaded from the App Store, Google Play or Samsung App, depending on the mobile device you use.

Dr Manalan said it was time for certification of the apps, stressing that enforcement would be key to the success of such an exercise.

Malaysian Dieticians’ Association president Indra Balaratnam agreed that some apps on weight management helped people to be more conscious of what they eat and drink, but cautioned them to examine the expertise behind the development of an application and ensure that it had been developed using reputable or credible food databases.

“It’s like buying a diet book. Not all diets in a book work and some can be very gimmicky,” she said.

Indra said it was important to determine the source of the apps.

“Some of the more reliable ones were developed by universities, hospitals and health experts.”

She emphasised that an app should “not take over actual medical attention by a healthcare professional”.

Universiti Malaya Medical Centre consultant endocrinologist Dr Alexander Tan said that any benefit from apps available for diabetics depended on how much the patients used them, and reminded them that they would still need to check and record their blood glucose levels.

“Just having the app alone is not useful if minimal data are entered. The data have to be analysed and acted upon if abnormalities are detected,” he added.

Dr Tan felt that such apps only played a small part in managing the illness.

“Diet and exercise, taking medication and self-monitoring are still the foundations for good diabetes control,” he said.

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