New research finds that smartphone apps are a useful tool for diet monitoring

September 10, 2014

The ability and consistency in monitoring one’s diet improves with the use of smartphone applications, according to new research by Arizona State University health scientists published in the latest issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Researchers Christopher Wharton, Carol Johnston, Barbara Cunningham and Danielle Sterner at ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion authored the study. hands holding cell phones Download Full Image

The study compared the effectiveness of a popular smartphone application called “Lose It” for dietary self-monitoring and quality to methods such as entering dietary data on the memo feature on a smartphone and traditional paper and pencil entry during an eight-week weight-loss trial. Forty-seven participants were semi-randomly assigned to the three groups.

The use of smartphones has transformed life as we once knew it. According to the Pew Internet Project, more than half of American adults own a smartphone and almost a third of them “can’t imagine living” without the device. The rapidly evolving landscape of applications has changed the way we socialize, conduct bank transactions, find our way to a friend’s house, and track diet and exercise.

To mimic real-life use of the app, the group using “Lose It” received no dietary quality advice. Groups using the smartphone memo and traditional paper and pencil methods received one-on-one nutrition counseling sessions and weekly reminders to eat healthy. A personalized diet plan was developed for these participants, supplemented by a suggested exercise plan.

“While no difference in weight loss was noted between the three groups, we found that participants who monitored their diet with either the smartphone app or the memo function were more likely to persist in the study and missed fewer days of entering dietary data, compared to those monitoring via paper and pencil,” said Wharton, associate professor of nutrition at ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. “This may be due to ease of use.”

“At the individual level, dietary self-monitoring has been identified as one of the most successful tools for managing body weight, so this is an interesting finding,” said Johnston, professor of nutrition at the school.

Little research exists on the benefits of health-focused applications from the user’s perspective and whether smartphone technology offers a superior platform for tracking and collecting health-related data. Much of past research has focused on the use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) as mobile devices for diet monitoring.

“This study will hopefully lead to a number of future studies that can improve the types of diet-based apps available to smartphone users, such as how using smartphones for diet tracking can influence diet choices over time, or whether apps that include feedback – not only in terms of calories, but also in terms of overall quality – could influence health outcomes.”

Media projects manager, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Sustainability Solutions Festival aims to reimagine our world

September 10, 2014

Following the success of the inaugural festival last February, three leading sustainability organizations are bringing their events back together for the 2015 Sustainability Solutions Festival in Phoenix.

The three organizations – GreenBiz Group, The Sustainability Consortium and The Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, a unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University – are pooling their networks, expertise and audiences at the festival, a weeklong series of events held at various locations throughout Phoenix, Feb. 16-22. The festival is anchored by the annual GreenBiz Forum, Feb. 17-19, with more than 600 sustainable business executives attending from around the world. (re)imagine what's to come at the 2015 Sustainability Solutions Festival Download Full Image

The Sustainability Solutions Festival, produced by the Walton Initiatives, features a variety of activities and events for audiences of all ages, including a film festival and meetings of The Sustainability Consortium, whose members include businesses, NGOs, academic and civil society organizations working collaboratively to drive sustainable consumer products. The consortium is jointly administered by ASU and the University of Arkansas.

“The Sustainability Solutions Festival provides an opportunity for students, professionals and community members to participate in innovative and inspiring programs that show how to align the interests of business, society and the environment,” said Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group, and host of the GreenBiz Forum. “It is rapidly becoming one of nation’s most important gathering of ideas and talent showing the way to a prosperous, secure and sustainable world.”

“The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is based upon collaboration and an understanding that it takes everyone working together to drive change – the business community, NGOs, academic and civic organizations, and individuals,” said Sheila Bonini, chief executive officer of TSC. “In the same way, The Sustainability Solutions Festival brings together many audiences with a shared commitment to the environment, offering programs that are both inspiring and pragmatic.”

The 2014 festival engaged more than 8,400 people across 11 events, all focused on the theme, "It's time to find a better way." This year’s theme, “(re)imagine,” challenges attendees to envision a better future through a deeper understanding of how each person, community and organization can drive change at a global scale.

“As an institution that holds sustainability as a core value, Arizona State University is pleased to welcome esteemed business leaders who are focused on finding solutions that benefit their organizations, their communities and our planet,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “In only its second year, the Sustainability Solutions Festival has distinguished itself as a vital convening that explores transformative social, environmental and economic collaborations, and celebrates their impact on our world.”

The seventh annual GreenBiz Forum, the leading gathering of corporate sustainability executives, will take place at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn. The event is framed by GreenBiz Group's “State of Green Business” report, an annual accounting on how, and how well, companies are addressing the world’s biggest environmental challenges.

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives