Mobile phones to tell consumers what to eat

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

A new mobile phone service which sends out customized meal suggestions at the time of purchase could also encourage people to buy foods such as those high in fiber or Omega-3, according to industry commentators.

The WebDiet smartphone-based service, to be rolled out this year, offers dietary recommendations sent throughout the day to suit the users' diet goals, such as low carb, low sodium, vegetarian or kosher, taking into account what they've already eaten.

Ewa Hudson, health and wellness industry manager, Euromonitor International, told “I think this would work but it would have to be quite personalized and customized because it is very specific information that people are looking for.

“There is a big drive for heart health and brain health foods and there is a big interest in weight management at the same time.”

She said that, depending on people’s needs, it could tell them if they have had enough fiber or Omega-3, as well as how many calories of fat they could consume whilst staying within the recommendations of their diet plan.

Hudson added: “Then some people would go and buy these products to consume the additional elements they are short of.”

The development is the latest in several attempts to use technology to inform consumers about diet.

Weight Watchers has just announced the launch of its own mobile service. It offers online subscribers “free access to the same weight loss planning and tracking tools that help them stay on track, from any location, at anytime on a supported mobile device”.

Another innovative step was the introduction of a camera-phone by Canadian company MyFoodPhone. This enabled individuals to take pictures of their food and receive feedback on their choices from nutrition coaches and advisors

It was also reported today that food packaging could be embedded with computer chips that instantly link mobile phones to an on-line sustainable food guide, according to the BBC.

The guides would help consumers make ethical and ecological decisions about what they eat, food policy expert Professor Tim Lang told the British Association Science Festival.

This would include issues such as how much energy and water were used to produce each calorie of food and what the impact of the food is on climate.

Health concerns

More Americans now believe they are overweight, according to a recent study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It said an estimated 25.6 percent of US adults reported being obese in 2007, compared to 23.9 percent in 2005 which is an increase of 1.7 percent.

Craig Gold, CEO and co-founder of WebDiet, Inc, said: "Now with fast food popularity growing and our overweight and obesity epidemic on the rise in America, helping people to eat smarter is an urgent task.

"Everyone knows our health depends largely on the choices we make in what we eat, and how much we eat.

“Research proves that keeping track of what we eat is the best method of losing weight. WebDiet not only makes keeping track easy to do, we go a step further, giving users dynamic real-time meal recommendations based on their daily intake requirements and diet goals.”

Users can select from restaurant and chain-specific meals, standardized meals available by food type and grocery stores, meals made at home, or from WebDiet’s collection of custom meal healthy low-calorie alternatives.

WebDiet Inc says it has multiple patent-pending technologies and its new service it to launch by invitation only this month before being rolled out.

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