Here's good news for those of you who need a little help on losing weight this year. A six-month study of 96 overweight and obese people found that implementing Twitter as part of a weight-loss program helped to improve their chances of shedding the excess pounds.

For the study, participants were divided into two groups and received two 15-minute podcasts per week for three months and two five-minute mini-podcasts per week during the last three months of the study which provided information about nutrition, exercise and goal-setting.

In one of the groups, participants also followed each other on Twitter with the goal of providing social support to one another as they tried to lose weight. In addition, two daily messages from a weight counselor were meant to encourage discussion among these participants.

Overall, both groups of participants lost an average of 2.7 percent of their excess weight after six months. But those who used Twitter were more successful at losing weight, and the researchers said that every 10 posts to Twitter corresponded with about a 0.5 percent weight loss.

In a university news release, study leader Brie Turner-McGrievy of the University of South Carolina had this to say about the results:
"Traditional behavioral weight-loss interventions generally provide social support through weekly, face-to-face group meetings. While we know this is effective, it is costly and can create a high degree of burden on participants,"

"Providing group support through online social networks can be a low-cost way to reach a large number of people who are interested in achieving a healthy weight."
The study, published in the current issue of the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine, is one of the first to examine the use of the popular online social networking service as part of a behavioral weight-loss program.