Assessing someone’s diet can be tricky and particularly time-consuming. People choose from millions of groceries every day, and the vast range of products available adds a further level of complexity to accurately assessing diet. Traditionally, dietary research is based on food diaries, meaning participants keep record of what they eat and drink by writing it down on paper. To extract nutritional information, researchers have to input the paper-based data into nutrient analysis software by hand, which is extremely time-consuming and error-prone. Furthermore, each country has local and distinct food products to offer. These differences need to be considered when assessing nutritional intake in an international project such as New Brain Nutrition.

Faced with these difficulties we are delighted to announce the use of the online 24-h dietary assessment tool “Measure Your Food On One Day (myfood24)” at the University Hospital in Frankfurt for our project. The study aims to investigate the effects of exercise and nutrition on behavioural measures regarding impulsive, compulsive and externalising behaviours.

myfood24 is a quick and easy online dietary assessment tool that tracks, monitors, and analyses dietary intake.

myfood24 is based on a novel approach to assess food intake through technology.

A collaborative project between the University of Leeds (PI Prof Janet Cade) and Imperial College London recognized the need for a valid, reliable, low burden and user-friendly dietary assessment tool. Funded by a UK Medical Research Council grant, the team of experts developed and tested myfood24 for a wide range of age groups including adolescents, adults and older adults and validated myfood24 against a suite of biomarkers.

Participants enter all the foods and drinks they have consumed during one day (from midnight to midnight) into the online tool. They can choose from an extensive range of food items including generic foods (e.g. milk chocolate) and branded products (e.g. milka & daim chocolate). Food portion images are available for a variety of items to help quantify consumed foods. myfood24 is easy to use with no training required; it can also be interviewer-administered. These features help to maximise participation throughout the research project and to cater to a wide range of research project types, study participants and clinical needs.

The academic rigor, automated data processing, and immediate production of results contribute to improved data quality and a drastic time reduction.

myfood24 has 4 country-specific versions available: United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark and Australia. These include localised food databases and translations.

A teaching version is also available in the United Kingdom; it has been tailored to a classroom situation and allows for immediate feedback from the whole class to be explored together (without aggregating information elsewhere). Feedback includes a variety of visual and easy-to-interpret graphs at both the individual and group level and includes over 100 different nutrients. myfood24 has wide application in research, teaching and health settings, globally.

Click here to try a free demo of myfood24.

Further information on myfood24 can be found on the myfood24 website.

myfood24 was developed through Medical Research Council funding, grant G110235 by a collaborative project between the University of Leeds (PI Prof Janet Cade) and Imperial College, London. Requests to use myfood24 should be made to enquiries@myfood24.org

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How many total food-and beverage-related decisions do you make in one day? Have a guess!

You reckon more than 15 decisions per day?! Congratulations! You are closer than the average (14.4) of 139 participants who were asked exactly the same question in a study by Wansink and Sobal (2007). However, you might still be far off. Let’s have a closer look at the study.

Being aware of the impact nutrition has on our physical and mental health as well as brain functioning, you might expect people to make well-considered food decisions. Wansink and Sobal (2007) aimed to answer the two following questions:

Are we aware of how many food-related decisions we make?

The results are clear, indicating a large degree of unawareness regarding the number of daily food decisions. The participants underestimated the number of food-and beverage-related decisions in a day by more than 200 decisions. We make an estimated 226.7 food decisions each day. Were you close? The authors conclude that we often engage in mindless eating which results in a lack of control of our food intake. There is a need to increase the awareness of the decisions we make regarding what, when and how much we eat to promote a healthy lifestyle.

These findings raise the question which factors determine our food decisions if we don’t. One potential factor that should be considered is our environment which was addressed in the second question of the study.

Food Choices cartoonAre we aware of the environmental cues that lead us to overeat?

To shed light on the second question the authors analysed data from four studies in which participants were either assigned to the control condition or a so-called exaggerated treatment condition. Environmental factors such as package size, serving bowl and plate size differed for the two conditions. In each study participants in the treatment condition served/prepared/consumed more food than the control group (between 29 and 53 % more). Afterwards the 192 participants of the treatment group were asked “How much did you eat compared to what is typical for you?” Across all four studies 19 % said “less” and 73 % “about the same” as normally. Just 8 % were aware that they consumed more. Afterwards they were informed about the environmental cues and asked a second question: “In this study, you were in a group that was given [a larger bowl]. Those people in your group ate an average of 20%-50% more than those who were instead given [a smaller bowl]. Why do you think you might have eaten more?” Interestingly, 21 % still claimed they did not eat more. 69 % justified the greater food intake with being hungry and 6 % with other reasons. Just 4 % admitted that the environmental cues influenced them.

These findings highlight the unawareness or denial of the influence our environment has on us and our food intake. However, they can be used as a starting point to improve our nutrition. Changing your immediate environment to make it less conducive to overeating can help you improve your health. Start with putting the sweets just a bit further away from you.

Further information on how to make your environment less conducive to overeating you can find in the book “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life” by Brian Wansink (https://www.slimbydesign.com/book)

You can also visit Brian Wansink’s website where you find more cartoons – like the one above -amongst other things: http://mindlesseating.org/index.php

Wansink, B., & Sobal, J. (2007). Mindless eating: The 200 daily food decisions we overlook.

Environment and Behavior, 39(1), 106-123.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0013916506295573

 

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