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

INnovating the JOY of Eating for Healthy Ageing (INJOY) Summer School

25.06.2018-04.07.2018, University of Barcelona, Spain

Angelika Mantur-Vierendeel, from EuroFIR AISBL, participated in a 10-day summer school during June, organised by the University of Barcelona (ES) and EIT Health. The course was designed to help entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs (in-house innovation managers), and researchers develop novel business solutions empowering citizens to adopt eating behaviours that support healthy ageing.

During this intense training, students had an opportunity to participate in scientific sessions, food-innovation workshops, theoretical and practical business sessions, site visits, and listen to ‘influencer’ talks similar to TED. The schedule was designed to combined sessions on nutrition with business development, which allowed participants from different backgrounds (nutrition, research, economics, business development) to better understand one another and how nutrition might be combined with entrepreneurship to generate new ideas.

The scientific sessions helped deepen knowledge about nutrition, but also allowed participants to go back to basics and learn new content from a variety of case studies. There was a good dose of business development theory for those without this kind of background, and plenty of practical classes with case analysis to complement the theory. To enrich the training experience, there were excursions to innovative culinary centres and businesses in Barcelona, where students had a chance to understand how real businesses can support healthy living. Participants also had an exclusive opportunity to visit the Alicia Foundation - a centre devoted to technological innovation in cuisine, the improvement of eating habits, and the evaluation of food heritage. In a culinary workshop, students had to cook different meals using innovative technologies, which allow preparation of foods with altered textures. For example, fish and chips can be blended (homogenised) separately and served traditionally, as fish and chips, but allow those with dysphagia to enjoy food they otherwise are unable to eat because of the risk of choking.

To ensure the knowledge gained could be put to good use in the future, participants also worked in group projects, translating ideas into sustainable business models. This helped develop and reinforce new skills in identifying and growing business ideas and assessing opportunities for sustainable business models to promote healthy living.

By completing this summer school, Angelika, and therefore EuroFIR and Quisper, has more experience in how SMEs are finding business opportunities on the food, nutrition and health sectors, which – in turn – helps Quisper understand better the needs of current and future members and users.

EIT Food Quisper Project Update Meeting

22nd June 2018 (University of Reading, UK)


EIT Food Quisper consortium, hosted by the University of Reading, met to review progress in June. Attendees included representatives from each of the seven beneficiaries.

Presentations from each of the beneficiaries provided updates on the work and started with the new Developer Platform, created by the hyve (NL). Technische Universität München described how the Quisper Scientific Advisory Board (QuiSAB) might be organised and managed including the tenure of the QuiSAB members. Business and governance models, including the progress on establishing Quisper ASBL, were proposed by shiftN whilst the University of Reading presented results from their Diet Quality Score and eNutri App research, and the development of a food preferences database. EuroFIR presented an update on the dissemination and stakeholder engagement plan and the Quadram Bioscience Institute outlined overall progress of the project.

In addition to the presentations, beneficiaries enjoyed a rare opportunity to network with their colleagues and discuss future activities. The next meeting will be in Munich (DE) during December 2018.

EIT Food & EIT Health Cross KIC Event: Benefits of biologicals for food & health industries

14th June 2018 (Rotterdam, NL)

Koppert Biological Systems hosted the first cross-KIC event amongst partners from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Food and Health Communities. The event showcased examples where the two communities have been successful independently but also ways in which they might work together in other EIT-funded projects. Speakers included Menno Kok (Director of EIT Health Belgium-Netherlands), Angelo Vermeulen (NASA), Imran Afzal (PepsiCo).

This event illustrated interconnections between these sectors and the willingness to engage more amongst projects with common interests. Menno Kok described how EIT Health could fund more prevention-related projects in coming years, and revealed there will be joint EIT Health and EIT Food funding calls in the future, related to education, business creation and sustainability. There will also be a joint innovation strategy for cross-KIC projects linking food and health. Importantly, for Quisper, Menno highlighted research in disease prevention, specifically the impact on individuals who are aware of a genetic predisposition and what it means in terms of health and dietary behaviours.

Angelo Vermeulen (NASA) talked about the many food innovations happening in the space sector (e.g. 3D-printed food to space farming) and discussed how NASA researchers monitor the composition of foods consumed. Understanding links between different types of food data (e.g. production methods and composition) is important for Quisper.

Slides are available here

Photos are available here

Proposed guidelines to evaluate scientific validity and evidence for genotype-based dietary advice

According to Grimaldi et al. (2017) (Eurogenetica Ltd, UK), there is a lack of regulations and guidelines that enable researchers to assess the validity of diet-gene interactions and, thus, companies to commercialise reputable products for consumers. To fill this gap, the authors have created a draft framework that allows scientists, healthcare professionals, and public policy makers to assess the quality of scientific evidence used to support personalised nutrition advice.

Elaborating this framework included review of a variety of documents such as guidelines for medical genetic testing and public health nutritional recommendations. However, the information obtained was not sufficient to assess accurately the evidence for genetics-based personalised nutrition advice. Most did not include the effects of diet-gene interactions on health outcomes, which is essential for evidence-based nutrigenetic advice. Thus, the framework proposes criteria to validate genetic-based dietary advice, including study design and quality, and biological plausibility (diet-gene interaction[s]).

Until now, research has described show some well-defined diet-gene interactions that support the idea that personalised nutrition advice might have a long-term benefit on health. It is important, however, to elaborate individualised advice based on sound evidence to gain trust and acceptance.

Personalised nutrition is impacting public perceptions of healthcare and has the potential to change for the better public health, reducing the incidence of non-communicable diseases (e.g. obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.) and the costs associated with treatment and care.


Read more here: https://genesandnutrition.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12263-017-0584-0

Personalised Nutrition and Health

Ordovas et al. (2018) (Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA) have suggested that more research on personalised nutrition is needed to deliver advice based on robust scientific evidence. They advised that studies should be designed in line with clinical research (i.e. randomised controlled trials, RCT) and include a range of “omics” techniques (e.g. metabolomics, microbiomics, etc.), and more guidelines on the use of genotype-based nutritional advice should be developed.

Currently, very little evidence has been published on gene-diet interactions from RCTs; most of the current personalised nutrition advice comes from observational studies using existing risk factors (e.g. cholesterol and cardiovascular disease risk). One exception is the Food4me study, which investigated the impact of personalised dietary advice amongst 1600 individuals and showed personalised information was more effective than generic advice at changing dietary and lifestyle behaviours for the better.

The term “personalised nutrition” can be defined as “an approach that uses information about individual characteristics to develop targeted nutritional advice, products or services”. The goal of personalised nutrition is to generate healthy eating advice using genetic, phenotypic, nutritional and clinical data, in combination with individuals’ goals, to promote healthy eating. The idea behind this concept is that a more personalised nutrition advice has a stronger effect on an individual’s health than more generic public health approaches. This new paradigm for dietary advice has arisen from:

  1. A better understanding of how nutrition affects the health of populations and individuals
  2. Increased availability and uptake of fitness trackers, mobile apps and other devices that allow tracking and or continuous measurement of some biomarkers (e.g. activity).
  3. New analytic tools that translate data into easy-to-understand recommendations.

Read more here (https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k2173)

Online dietary intake assessment using a graphical food frequency app (eNutri): Usability metrics from EatWellUK

Providing personalised nutrition advice through apps on mobile devices could be an effective tool to address serious and persistent public health problems (e.g. obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus). This approach has been tested using an app developed by the University of Reading (UoR), one of the leading partners in the Quisper project funded by EIT Food (ID 18064).

Results from an online study (EatWellUK) involving 324 UK participants evaluated the eNutri app using three well-established questionnaires:

  1. Baecke questionnaire for evaluating physical activity
  2. Food4Me food frequency questionnaire (FFQ)
  3. System usability scale (SUS) questionnaire, a tool used for evaluating evaluate a hardware, software, mobile devices, websites and applications (apps)

Volunteers were assigned to one of two groups, based on age (18 – 59 and 60+ years) and screen size (mobile, tablet, laptop/desktop). Suitability for online studies was determined by completion of all questionnaires without assistance across all age groups and a SUS score greater than 70.

Wider use of online and electronic devices would enable healthcare professionals and providers to monitor and affect changes in intake and lifestyle easily and efficiently. However, for apps like eNutri to benefit consumers and healthcare, they must be user-friendly as well as scientifically validated.

eNutri app is being trialled in the UK and Germany as part of the Quisper project - read more