Author Archive

Web-based graphical food frequency assessment system: Design, development and usability

The acceptability of an online food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) amongst users participating in the Eat Well Kuwait Project (EatWellQ8) was good, while the results for mobile devices were comparable with computers (Zenun et al., 2017). These conclusions were reached as part of study examining how online tools might be best used to assess food intake.

FFQs used photographs of different portion sizes for each food to make it easier for users to indicate how much they usually eat. In total, volunteers were asked to specify consumption frequency of 146 foods including drinks. Usability scores were good (75) and completion took just over 14 minutes.

EatWellQ8 aims to determine if web-based and face-to-face communication of personalised nutrition are equally effective in Kuwait. These results correspond to the first part of a study related to the design and development of the online FFQs and will help design of a web-based tools and their acceptability.

Popular nutrition-related mobile apps: A feature assessment

Around the same time as the Quisper prototype was launched in late 2015, Rodrigo Zenun Franco and colleagues at the University of Reading (UK) published an analysis of the 13 most popular nutrition apps. They considered the approaches and technologies used as well as user feedback and concluded that none provided personalised nutritional advice and there was still a lot to be done to achieve this goal.

The apps were ranked and selected based on popularity. Nutritional assessment was performed via a food diary tool and the balance between intake and energy expenditure compared. However, none of these apps provided personalised nutrition advice based on this information.

New technologies and devices can be combined to encourage behaviour changes. Although most of the apps reviewed recorded changes in weight and tracked physical activity, the link between users and diet recommendations needs to be improved to have any impact on achieving individuals’ goals.

The development of apps focused on health, based on nutrition advice and physical activity, has the potential to be a powerful tool to combat weight gain and obesity as well as other non-communicable diseases (e.g. diabetes, hypertension), but there is still room for improvement.

Read more here

The science behind healthy lifestyle choices

By sharing information about the health benefits, it is possible to encourage home cooking and reduce unhealthy dietary patterns, and results published in Costa et al. (2018) suggest this new knowledge could contribute to the wider efforts to reduce obesity rates among the population.

We are exposed constantly to offers of calorie-rich, low-price, readily available foods that interfere with efforts to control what we eat. This is described as an obesogenic environment, i.e. our environment actively promotes poor dietary behaviours. As a consequence, it is important to strengthen individuals’ self-regulating powers and promote healthy dietary patterns.

There are three types of responses associated with behavioural modifications:

  1. Motivational - reasons behind a individual’s actions and aimed at increasing willpower
  2. Volitional - when an individual decides on or commits to a course of action
  3. Nudging - where involuntary self-regulating responses are directed

Nudging is known to be more successful at changing behaviours around foods than motivational or volitional responses. Thus, the aim of PRIMEMEAL – funded by the Portuguese Foundation of Science and Technology – was to promote healthier meal choices by first understanding how psychological self-regulating processes work around home cooking, smart meal planning (e.g. using a list to do food shopping) and evaluating restaurant menus.

Read the full article here