Automated nutrition app can help people follow healthier diet

Written by | 26 Apr 2022 | Devices and Technology

People could benefit from fully automated personal nutritional advice, as a new research paper shows that an app improved healthy diet in clinical trials.

A paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research today (Mon 25 April 22) shows how the eNutri app developed by researchers in human nutrition and biomedical engineering at the University of Reading helped people to eat more healthily. Participants who were given automated personalised nutrition advice improved their healthy diet score by 6% compared to a control group who were given general healthy eating guidance.

Dr Roz Fallaize, Dietitian and Research Fellow at the University of Reading’s Department of Food and Nutritional Science said:

“The research demonstrates that the eNutri technology is effective in helping users to improve their healthy food intake, with a significant improvement in diet quality for the group who had access to automated, personalised nutrition advice.”

“While having a registered nutritionist or dietitian giving personalised dietary advice is ideal, this is often only available to those with health concerns or with the financial resource to pay. There is also growing interest in nutrition apps and web services, but many commercial apps tend to focus on weight loss or calorie counting rather than healthy eating.”

“Nutritional advice should always be focused on healthy, balanced diets and positive relationships with food, and I’m pleased that our study helped people eat better. One exciting aspect of the eNutri system is the potential to offer it to lots of people at low-cost”

Dr Rodrigo Zenun Franco, a PhD graduate from the University of Reading and lead author of the paper said:

“The eNutri app prioritises healthy eating based on evidence and uniquely uses a diet scoring system to provide food-based advice that is tailored to the individual user.”

“We are continuing to develop eNutri to suit specific population groups including those with heart conditions and hope to make this available to the public in the future”

People were either assigned to receive personalised nutrition advice or given general healthy eating advice. Those in the personalised group then had their diets scored according to 11 criteria based on UK dietary guidance. The eNutri app gave an automated assessment of diet quality giving the user a ‘healthy diet score’ out of 100.

The ‘healthy diet score’ includes assessments of intake of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, red and processed meat, with higher points awarded when users have the recommended intake of these. The personalised advice is then targeted to areas of their diet which they would benefit most from changing.

DOI – 10.2196/29088

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