Efforts to track food intake on smartphone app impacted by day of week but not season of year

Participants recorded less food on weekends and as time in study progressed, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior


Philadelphia, January 8, 2018

Dietary self-monitoring is a key component of successful behavioral weight loss interventions and is essential for facilitating other behavior change techniques (eg, setting goals, providing behavioral feedback). Few studies, however, have examined weekly and seasonal patterns of dietary self-monitoring, particularly when using a smartphone application (app). A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that the amount of time in a study and day of the week were associated with dietary self-monitoring but not season.

“A key question we wanted to answer is what impact the holiday season has on individuals’ efforts to monitor their calorie intake,” said lead author Christine A. Pellegrini, PhD, Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Study participants were randomized into one of three weight loss conditions as part of the E-Networks Guiding Adherence to Goals in Exercise and Diet (ENGAGED) study. One group of 32 adults with a body mass index that classified them as obese was asked to self-monitor dietary intake on the ENGAGED study smartphone app. The app contained a database of over 50,000 generic and name brand foods. Daily dietary self-monitoring data were obtained from the app over the six-month study. For each day in the study, the number of foods, calories, and fat grams that were recorded were analyzed and a daily average for each participant was calculated.

After analysis of the data, a reduction in the number of foods reported by each person was seen with each successive day in the study. There was also a weekend effect such that participants reported significantly fewer foods between Thursday and Sunday relative to Monday. The study, however, determined that although more food was reported in January, an overall seasonality effect was not observed.

“Adults generally gain weight during the holidays and self-monitoring can help to manage weight during this period,” reported Dr. Pellegrini. “Weight loss is a common New Year's resolution and may explain the increased number of foods reported in January; however, the typical pattern of self-monitoring during the holidays is not well established.”

Self-monitoring is a common and effective strategy for weight loss, yet little is known about the factors that influence self-monitoring consistency in adults participating in a weight management program. In this study, several time-varying factors including time in a study and day of the week were found to be associated with individuals' dietary self-monitoring patterns. Factors that influence these variations warrant further investigation in order to identify methods and additional strategies to better understand and improve dietary self-monitoring adherence. For example, text messages, which have the ability to provide feedback, reminders, and encouragement to self-monitor in real-time, have shown promise in helping with weight loss and self-monitoring adherence. Based on this study’s findings, providing these prompts on weekends may improve adherence to self-monitoring recommendations.

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Notes for Editors
The article is “Daily and Seasonal Influences on Dietary Self-monitoring Using a Smartphone Application,” by Christine A. Pellegrini, PhD; David E. Conroy, PhD; Siobhan M. Phillips, PhD, MPH; Angela Fidler Pfammatter, PhD; H. Gene McFadden, BA; Bonnie Spring, PhD (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2016.12.004). It appears in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 50, issue 1 (January 2018) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Christine Ann Pellegrini, Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine at c-pellegrini@northwestern.edu.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Dr. Christine Ann Pellegrini and information specifically for journalists are located at www.jneb.org/content/podcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications. www.jneb.org

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