User-documented food consumption data from publicly available apps

An analysis of opportunities and challenges for nutrition research

Marcus Maringer*, Pieter van 't Veer, Naomi Klepacz, Muriel C.D. Verain, Anne Normann, Suzanne Ekman, Lada Timotijevic, Monique M. Raats, Anouk Geelen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number59
JournalNutrition Journal
Volume17
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2018

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Food
Research
Privacy
Documentation
Diet Records
Physical Fitness
Licensure
Energy Intake
Motivation
Language
Research Personnel
Databases
Health

Keywords

  • Contextual data
  • Data management
  • Diet apps
  • Dietary intake assessment
  • Food consumption data
  • Legal and ethical governance
  • Research infrastructure
  • Technological innovations
  • User-documented data

Cite this

@article{e85fc6a9334d47d6be0cede4cee5b9ed,
title = "User-documented food consumption data from publicly available apps: An analysis of opportunities and challenges for nutrition research",
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.",
keywords = "Contextual data, Data management, Diet apps, Dietary intake assessment, Food consumption data, Legal and ethical governance, Research infrastructure, Technological innovations, User-documented data",
author = "Marcus Maringer and {van 't Veer}, Pieter and Naomi Klepacz and Verain, {Muriel C.D.} and Anne Normann and Suzanne Ekman and Lada Timotijevic and Raats, {Monique M.} and Anouk Geelen",
year = "2018",
month = "6",
day = "9",
doi = "10.1186/s12937-018-0366-6",
language = "English",
volume = "17",
journal = "Nutrition Journal",
issn = "1475-2891",
publisher = "Springer Verlag",

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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.; Geelen, Anouk.

In: Nutrition Journal, Vol. 17, 59, 09.06.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - User-documented food consumption data from publicly available apps

T2 - An analysis of opportunities and challenges for nutrition research

AU - Maringer, Marcus

AU - van 't Veer, Pieter

AU - Klepacz, Naomi

AU - Verain, Muriel C.D.

AU - Normann, Anne

AU - Ekman, Suzanne

AU - Timotijevic, Lada

AU - Raats, Monique M.

AU - Geelen, Anouk

PY - 2018/6/9

Y1 - 2018/6/9

N2 - 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.

AB - 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.

KW - Contextual data

KW - Data management

KW - Diet apps

KW - Dietary intake assessment

KW - Food consumption data

KW - Legal and ethical governance

KW - Research infrastructure

KW - Technological innovations

KW - User-documented data

U2 - 10.1186/s12937-018-0366-6

DO - 10.1186/s12937-018-0366-6

M3 - Article

VL - 17

JO - Nutrition Journal

JF - Nutrition Journal

SN - 1475-2891

M1 - 59

ER -