Mobile tracking application may help users meet vitamin D requirements

New study in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior validates use of the Vitamin D Calculator app for tracking intake

Philadelphia, PA, May 7, 2015

Vitamin D is essential for the maintenance of bone health and may be implicated in other chronic diseases, as well as immunity, but adults in Canada are consistently deficient in dietary vitamin D, by nearly 400 international units per day (IU/d) on average. Coupled with low vitamin D synthesis from the sun during fall and winter at Canadian latitudes, tracking intake of vitamin D is vital for those lacking the nutrient. In an article in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, a group from the University of Guelph examined the validity of a mobile application for tracking vitamin D and calcium intake.

Over 17,000 health apps are currently available and 500 million people worldwide are projected to have used a health app by the end of 2015. In this study, researchers examined use of the Vitamin D Calculator app by enrolling 25 men and 25 women between 18 and 25 years of age. Before beginning the study, participants were instructed on how to use the app and then asked to use the app to record their intake of vitamin D- and calcium-containing food and beverages, as well as their exposure to sunlight on three recording days.

The day after the three-day tracking period was completed, participants orally recalled their intake for research assistants.  Mean vitamin D and calcium intake estimated by the app were significantly positively correlated and not significantly different from the recalls, validating use of the app for tracking dietary intake.

“Because estimated vitamin D intake has not increased meaningfully since 2004, Canadians need to increase vitamin D intake. This app may be a useful tool for tracking personal intake,” said lead author Samantha Goodman, MSc, PhD Candidate. “The app represents a valuable tool physicians or dietitians could use in clinical counseling to help patients increase their intake of vitamin D or calcium.”

As intake of vitamin D has remained below recommendations since the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, encouraging Canadian adults to consume more is an important healthcare goal. Mean dietary vitamin D in adults (aged 19–50 years) has remained around 204 and 232 IU for women and men, respectively, which is well below the recommended dietary allowance of 600 IU/d and below 1000 IU/d recommended by the Canadian Cancer Society for most adults. Tracking intake is therefore important in helping inform patients about potential deficiencies.

There were some limitations to the current study. A longer time for recording vitamin D information could give a more realistic picture of intake. Although vitamin D intake provides important feedback, it is not diagnostic of vitamin D status. However, an app can provide immediate dietary feedback to the user and guide daily food choices.


Notes for Editors
“Vitamin D Intake Among Young Canadian Adults: Validation of a Mobile Vitamin D Calculator App,” by Samantha Goodman, MSc; Barbara Morrongiello, PhD; Janis Randall Simpson, PhD, RD; and Kelly Meckling, PhD. (DOI:, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 47, Issue 3 (May/June 2015), published by Elsevier. 

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628or to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Kevin Gonsalves, News Service Officer, Communications and Public Affairs, University of Guelph, at +1 519-824-4120 ext. 56982 or

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Samantha Goodman and information specifically for journalists are located at Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
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.

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