Innovation That Matters

Nutritionists on speed dial


Most dieticians agree that food awareness and healthy eating habits beat a fad diet any day. The problem is that most people don’t have the discipline, time or interest to continuously track what they’re eating and how many calories each meal or snack adds to their daily intake. A practical solution has been launched in Osaka, where a Tokyo medical equipment maker is working with public health officials to help consumers keep tabs on what they’re digesting. How it works? Before lifting their chopsticks, users take a picture of their meal with their cellphone’s camera. They send the picture to the system, and nutritionists analyse the meal and its nutritional value, following up with advice on necessary adjustments. Feedback follows within three days. Users can also get more information online, and upload photos from digital cameras. The system is being trialled with 100 cardiac, diabetes and obesity patients, and is hoped to rein in growing health problems caused by growing waistlines in Japan, especially of men in their 20s and 30s. A similar commercial service has been available in Canada and the US for a while. Canadian MyFoodPhone also gets users to send in pictures of what they’re eating, creating a running nutrition diary. Once a week, a nutritionist advises the client on how they’re doing and what they need to improve. Uploading to a diary is free, and weekly advice comes at a monthly cost of USD 9.99. While the Japanese system delivers feedback faster than MyFoodPhone, the killer app would be one that comes back with an instant response and tips. Which could be made possible using sophisticated image recognition software, or trained operators who are available 24/7. Given worldwide health issues related to obesity and the near ubiquity of cameraphones, this could be huge. Spotted by: Bertjan van Dijk



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