ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Portable technologies used in dietary assessment: a systematic review

Luke Gemming, Cliona Ni Mhurchu, Jennifer Utter

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 8 - Law Building, Room 100
Date: 2012-07-10 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-04


Background: Recent advances in handheld-computer technologies have opened up possibilities for new methods of dietary assessment. Digital cameras, wireless data transmission, touch screen devices and software for automated image analysis have great potential to improve dietary assessment. Therefore a review was conducted to explore the range of portable technologies available and their validity/reliability for assessing dietary intake.

Aims: To identify portable technologies used in dietary assessment and examine the validity and reliability of the identified methods where data available.

Methods: A systematic search of peer-reviewed literature was conducted to identify all relevant English language publications from January 2000 to November 2011. All study designs and technical articles were eligible for inclusion. Obsolete and non-digital technologies, such as photographic film and dictaphones were excluded.

Results: 18 publications were identified that described four portable technologies (digital cameras, PDAs, mobile phones and a custom device). Ten different methods of portable technology-assisted dietary assessment were described in studies conducted in the United States of America, Japan, Australia, Denmark and the United Kingdom. Seven methods used digital photos as the primary source for dietary intake information. Three methods used portable technologies to enhance traditional methods: electronic food records, food records with photos, and an image-assisted 24h recall. The criterion validity of an image-based method (Remote Food Photography Method) to estimate energy intake has been demonstrated using weighed meals. However, limitations of other image-based methods in free-living conditions were evident as the variety and complexity of foods made accurate image analysis difficult. The criterion validity of two PDA electronic food record software packages has also been demonstrated using an observed weighed lunch (DietMatePro) and doubly labelled water (Balance Log). All other methods have only been tested in small pilot or feasibility studies.

Conclusions: Use of photos captured from portable technologies to assess dietary intake is a growing trend but the accurate analysis of images captured in free-living conditions is a major challenge for these new methods. The development of semi-automated food record systems may provide objectivity lacking in current methods. However, these systems are still under development and are yet to be validated.