Nutrition Logging Apps

Goals

To determine the best mobile applications available in the UK for logging nutrients consumed and find out what data sources they use to determine calories and, as available, other nutrients. Apps that fit into this category include Second Nature (https://www.secondnature.io/), MyFitnessPal, LifeSum, Better Me, Eat this much, Platejoy, and Suggestic. An ideal response would provide the links of one or more open-source data sets used by one or more dietary apps, with sources specific to the UK preferred.

Early Findings

  • Our initial research sweep did not indicate that there are nutritional tracking apps specific to the UK; we have, therefore, focused on the global market.
  • The "calorie counter" app market is growing rapidly at a CAGR of 23% and is expected to grow from just under $1 billion in 2020 to nearly $2 billion by 2023.
  • There is a peer-reviewed assessment of several tracking apps, which was published in May 2019. The apps included in the paper include:
    • FatSecret
    • LifeSum
    • MyPlate
    • Argus
    • Lose it!
    • MyFitnessPal
    • MyDiet Coach
  • The paper notes that there are "differences in each app’s estimated averages of 3-day total calorie (kcal) and macronutrient intakes (g) compared with calorie and macronutrient estimates generated by using the USDA Food Composition Database."
    • Calorie intake was "relatively similar among apps" with a relative difference of only 1.4%.
    • Carobohydrate intake tended to be overestimated by 1%.
    • Protein intake was the most inconsistent, with the average overestimating by 10.4%.
    • Fat intake was underestimated by an average of 6.5%.
    • The paper does not attempt to discover the sources used by the apps in question.
  • Other, non-academic reviews of nutritional apps (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4) tend to focus on usability and features.
  • Early research found one very insightful app review which names
    • CalorieKing, MyNetDiary, and Duritionix as top nutrition databases;
    • Zomato and WeKnow Recipe as top restaurant nutrition databases; and
    • Indicates that The Open Food Repo is a top packaged food database that is often linked to barcode scanners.
    • Time constraints for this early brief did not permit us to explore the above databases to determine whether they are open source or their applicability in the UK; e.g., whether British brands are covered by The Open Food Repo.
  • Another academic work, published in 2018, notes that food database information availability depends on the country:
    • However, the authors state that in Switzerland, "we did not find any database whose product coverage was sufficiently high, where the data was completely open, and easily accessible through an Application Programming Interface (API)."

Proposed next steps:

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