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User-documented food consumption data from publicly available apps: an analysis of opportunities and challenges for nutrition research

Maringer, Marcus, van’t Veer, Pieter, Klepacz, Naomi, Verain, Muriel C. D., Normann, Anne, Ekman, Suzanne, Timotijevic, Lada, Raats, Monique M. and Geelen, Anouk (2018) User-documented food consumption data from publicly available apps: an analysis of opportunities and challenges for nutrition research Nutrition Journal, 17, 59. pp. 1-13.

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Abstract

Background

The need for a better understanding of food consumption behaviour within its behavioural context has sparked the interest of nutrition researchers for user-documented food consumption data collected outside the research context using publicly available nutrition apps. The study aims to characterize the scientific, technical, legal and ethical features of this data in order to identify the opportunities and challenges associated with using this data for nutrition research.

Method

A search for apps collecting food consumption data was conducted in October 2016 against UK Google Play and iTunes storefronts. 176 apps were selected based on user ratings and English language support. Publicly available information from the app stores and app-related websites was investigated and relevant data extracted and summarized. Our focus was on characteristics related to scientific relevance, data management and legal and ethical governance of user-documented food consumption data.

Results

Food diaries are the most common form of data collection, allowing for multiple inputs including generic food items, packaged products, or images. Standards and procedures for compiling food databases used for estimating energy and nutrient intakes remain largely undisclosed. Food consumption data is interlinked with various types of contextual data related to behavioural motivation, physical activity, health, and fitness. While exchange of data between apps is common practise, the majority of apps lack technical documentation regarding data export. There is a similar lack of documentation regarding the implemented terms of use and privacy policies. While users are usually the owners of their data, vendors are granted irrevocable and royalty free licenses to commercially exploit the data.

Conclusion

Due to its magnitude, diversity, and interconnectedness, user-documented food consumption data offers promising opportunities for a better understanding of habitual food consumption behaviour and its determinants. Non-standardized or non-documented food data compilation procedures, data exchange protocols and formats, terms of use and privacy statements, however, limit possibilities to integrate, process and share user-documented food consumption data. An ongoing research effort is required, to keep pace with the technical advancements of food consumption apps, their evolving data networks and the legal and ethical regulations related to protecting app users and their personal data.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Maringer, Marcus
van’t Veer, Pieter
Klepacz, Naomin.klepacz@surrey.ac.uk
Verain, Muriel C. D.
Normann, Anne
Ekman, Suzanne
Timotijevic, LadaL.Timotijevic@surrey.ac.uk
Raats, Monique M.M.Raats@surrey.ac.uk
Geelen, Anouk
Date : 9 June 2018
DOI : 10.1186/s12937-018-0366-6
Copyright Disclaimer : © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Food consumption data; Dietary intake assessment; Diet apps; User-documented data; Contextual data; Technological innovations; Data management; Legal and ethical governance; Research infrastructure
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 13 Jun 2018 08:40
Last Modified : 16 Jan 2019 19:11
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/847047

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