JMIR mHealth and uHealth (Feb 2019)

Evaluating Mobile Health Apps for Customized Dietary Recording for Young Adults and Seniors: Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Liu, Ying-Chieh,
  • Chen, Chien-Hung,
  • Tsou, Ya-Chi,
  • Lin, Yu-Sheng,
  • Chen, Hsin-Yun,
  • Yeh, Jou-Yin,
  • Chiu, Sherry Yueh-Hsia

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 2
p. e10931


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BackgroundThe role of individual-tailored dietary recording in mobile phone health apps has become increasingly important in management of self-health care and population-based preventive service. The development of such mobile apps for user-centered designing is still challengeable and requires further scientific evidence. ObjectiveThis study aims to conduct a randomized trial to assess the accuracy and time efficiency of two prototypes for dietary recoding utilization related to the input method of food intake. MethodsWe first present an innovative combinatorial concept for dietary recording to account for dish variation. One prototype was a self-chosen tab app that featured choosing each food ingredient to synthesize an individual dish, whereas the other was an autonomous exhaustive list app that provided one selection from a comprehensive list of dish items. The concept included commercially available choices that allowed users to more accurately account for their individual food selection. The two mobile apps were compared in a head-to-head parallel randomized trial evaluation. Young adults (n=70, aged 18-29) and older adults (n=35, aged 55-73) were recruited and randomized into two groups for accuracy and response time evaluation based on 12 types of food items in use of the developed self-chosen tab and autonomous exhaustive list apps, respectively. ResultsFor the trials based on the self-chosen tab (53 participants) and autonomous exhaustive list groups (52 participants), the two prototypes were found to be highly accurate (>98%). The self-chosen tab app was found to be more efficient, requiring significantly less time for input of 11 of 12 items (P<.05). The self-chosen tab users occasionally neglected to select food attributes, an issue which did not occur in the autonomous exhaustive list group. ConclusionsOur study contributes through the scientific evaluation of the transformation step into prototype development to demonstrate that a self-chosen tab app has potentially better opportunity in effectiveness and efficiency. The combinatorial concept offers potential for dietary recording and planning which can account for high food item variability. Our findings on prototype development of diversified dietary recordings provide design consideration and user interaction for related further app development and improvement. Trial RegistrationISRCTN Registry ISRCTN86142301; ISRCTN86142301 (Archived by WebCite at