A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Validation Studies Performed on Dietary Record Apps

Liangzi Zhang, Andreja Misir, Hendriek Boshuizen, Marga Ocké*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Mobile dietary record apps have been increasingly validated by studies with various study designs. This review aims to evaluate the overall accuracy of dietary record apps in measuring the intake of energy, macro- A nd micronutrients, and food groups in real-life settings and the designs of validation studies. We systematically searched mobile dietary record validation studies published during the period from 2013 to 2019. We identified 14 studies for the systematic review, of which 11 studies were suitable for meta-analyses on energy intake and 8 studies on macronutrient intake. Mean differences and SDs of nutrient estimations between the app and the reference method from studies were pooled using a random-effects model. All apps underestimated energy intake when compared with their reference methods, with a pooled effect of-202 kcal/d (95% CI:-319,-85 kcal/d); the heterogeneity of studies was 72%. After stratification, studies that used the same food-composition table for both the app and the reference method had a lower level of heterogeneity (0%) and a pooled effect of-57 kcal/d (95% CI:-116, 2 kcal/d). The heterogeneity of studies in the differences in carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake was 54%, 73%, and 80%, with the pooled effect of-18.8 g/d,-12.7 g/d, and-12.2 g/d, respectively, after excluding outliers. The intakes of micronutrients and food groups were statistically nonsignificantly underestimated by the apps in most cases. In conclusion, dietary record apps underestimated food consumption compared with traditional dietary assessment methods. Moreover, varying study designs have been found across studies. Recommended practices for conducting validation studies were formulated including considering biomarkers as the reference, testing in a larger and more representative study population for a longer period, avoiding the learning effect of each method, and comparing food group or food item consumption in addition to comparing energy and nutrient intakes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2321-2332
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • dietary apps
  • dietary assessment
  • dietary intake
  • dietary records
  • meta-analysis
  • mobile technologies
  • review
  • smartphone apps
  • study design
  • validation study


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