New study aims to develop a mobile app for population-based dietary assessment


Excessive intakes of saturated fat and added sugar are one of the leading causes of premature death in adults in the United States, contributing to nearly 700,000 deaths each year, but nutritional research aimed at improving health is often difficult due to the limitations of accurately tracking participants’ food intake. A new study led by the University of Arizona Health Sciences aims to develop a new mobile dietary assessment app for researchers to use that will help study participants more accurately track their intake of saturated fat and fat. added sugar.

Traditionally, intake estimates for saturated fat and added sugars have been measured in research studies using food frequency questionnaires or 24-hour dietary recalls. The problem is that these methods are very time consuming and cognitively demanding for study participants and expensive for researchers. They are also highly prone to recall bias and reporting errors related, in part, to reliance on a person’s memory during long recall intervals and errors in estimating portion sizes. They don’t happen in real time. “

Susan Schembre, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson

Dr Schembre explained that existing consumer food tracking apps, while popular, are not linked to research-grade nutrient databases. This makes them limited in their ability to be used in research studies.

The proposed dietary assessment method aims to address these limitations with a “Momentary Ecological Assessment” (EMA). EMA approaches involve recording events as they occur in a person’s natural environment. The project, “Mobile Ecological Momentary Eating Assessment: An Ecologically Valid, Low Load Approach to Measuring Food Intake in Near Real Time,” is funded by a $ 3.3 million grant out of five years of the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health.

“Using EMA to develop a novel method of dietary assessment is of great importance to the field of human nutrition and will advance our understanding of dietary behaviors as they occur naturally,” said the Dr Schembre.

The app will prompt participants multiple times a day to report their recent intakes from a list of commonly consumed foods and beverages that contribute the greatest amounts of saturated fat or added sugar to the American diet. The resulting data will give researchers a more accurate picture of food consumption, allowing them to make better recommendations for improving health and well-being.

Traditional Nutrition Studies have used mobile apps to provide brief, automated surveys to participants periodically throughout the day. These assessments are generally study specific and are not optimized for widespread use in the research community. The app Dr Schembre and his team are developing will be the first fully automated, research-grade EMA-based mobile food assessment tool that can be used by researchers to collect more accurate dietary data.

“Dr. Schembre’s highly innovative research addresses one of the most important topics in human nutrition – how to accurately measure what people eat when they go about their normal, everyday lives,” said Myra Muramoto, MD, MPH , professor and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. “Better ways of answering this question are essential for finding new ways to improve the health and nutrition of individuals and communities.”


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