In this day and age, a vast majority of Americans (over 60%) are simply not eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, and over 70 million adults are obese. Stress, a lack of time, and forgetfulness can all lead people to opt for unhealthy, fast foods that curb hunger but do not supply the body with vital nutrients. In this day of ubiquitous connectivity, one in which smartphones are practically an extension of the human body, it makes sense that technology should provide a form of rescue. An April 2022 study by researchers from the University of Reading has found that an automated nutrition app can help people follow a healthier diet.

Personalized Nutrition is Key

The majority of Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations for nutrient-rich food groups (except total grains, meat, and beans). At the same time, they overconsume solid fats, added sugars, and alcohol—most of which can be considered as ‘empty calories’. Two groups that are faring particularly poorly in this respect are children aged two to three (who have unacceptably low intakes of fruits, orange vegetables, milk, and legumes), and women aged 19 to 30 (over 90% of which have intakes that are below those recommended for all eight food groups). When correcting nutritional deficits, it is vital to take personalized needs into account. These needs can be met with the aid of a personalized nutrition app.

Nutritional Deficiencies

As a result of unhealthy diets, around 10% of Americans have nutritional deficiencies (as found by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Supplements can correct nutritional deficiencies, though it is important for supplementation to be recommended by a doctor so that dosage and quality are well-established. In some cases, healthy eating can remedy existing deficiencies. When specific conditions are present, however (including anemia and osteopenia and osteoporosis), supplementation is usually prescribed.

Nutrition App

The University of Reading Study

The April 2022 study by University of Reading researchers developed an app called eNutri. They then conducted their research, providing automated personalized nutrition advice to participants. The results showed that the latter improved their healthy diet score by 6% compared to a control group that were simply given standard healthy eating advice. The researchers emphasized that although having a personal nutritionist or dietician is ideal, these professionals are often exclusively available to those with health issues or those with a high level of financial resources. Current apps focus on weight loss or calorie/carbohydrate control, but do not contain information on healthy eating as a whole. The eNutri app is a low-cost means to consume a balanced diet and to improve people’s relationships with food.

How Does the eNutri App Work?

The eNutri app is based on a diet scoring system that provides food advice that is based on the needs of the individual user. This score is based on assessments of the amount of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, red and processed meats, and other foods. Those consuming a healthy Mediterranean-style diet receive higher scores than those who consume refined and processed foods. The University of Reading team is still working on the app, in order to make it available to people with specific conditions (including heart disease).

In an ideal world, all people would have their own nutritionist or dietitian. This is because each of us has specific needs depending on factors like our BMI, activity level, age, and similar. The bridge to greater health may lie in an app that scores individual users and provides them with advice, so they can achieve an optimal state of health.