A study of 30 top weight loss apps published October 8, 2013 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the majority of apps offered a narrow range of  “evidenced based behavioral weight-loss strategies.”

In this study, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Boston University of Medicine and Rosalind Franklin University selected 30 apps out of the top 100 weight loss apps for Android and iPhone. They reviewed each app to see if it utilized any of 20 behavioral strategies that have been proven successful in weight loss programs. These include strategies for coping with stress; tools to help people better manage their time; information on how to read food labels; tips on portion control and techniques to help people manage their food cravings.

The bottom line: None of the apps contained all 20 features — the best contained about two-thirds (or 65%) of the desired motivational strategies. Five had zero. There was virtually no difference between free apps and paid apps. The free version of MyNetDiary got the highest grade.  The researchers concluded, “Behavioral strategies that help improve motivation, reduce stress and assist with problem solving were missing across apps. Inclusion of additional features could make apps more helpful to users who have motivational challenges.”

Sherry Pagoto, PhD, associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and lead author of the study, said that the point wasn’t that apps should contain all 20 behavioral strategies, “ That might be too much for users, but more research is needed. We encourage app developers to consider adding more sophisticated behavioral strategies that would help people who have a hard time self-tracking.”

Want to see how your diet app rated? You can read the entire study on the American Journal for Preventive Medicine website.