Smartphone App Tracks Caloric Intake by Taking a Picture

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A picture can be worth a thousand calories or 800 or 1,800 through a new smartphone application being developed at Purdue University to help the health and diet conscious track their caloric intake by taking a picture of their food.

 

The application counts more than calories. It also provides information on the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates in food through the Technology Assisted Dietary Assessment system, or TADA, being developed by Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

 

"Our goal is to allow people to record their food intake and help individuals with health challenges like diabetes understand what they're eating and make healthier choices," said Carol Boushey, who led the development team while a professor in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

 

Boushey, who is now an adjunct professor at Purdue and director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center's Nutrition Support Shared Resource, said the application's development entailed an interdisciplinary approach.

 

Edward J. Delp, the Charles William Harrison Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, oversaw the imaging software development that automatically identifies the foods in the images.

 

"We have excellent methods to measure physical activity but we don't have a good way to measure what we consume," Delp said. "It's one thing for someone to type in a list of the food they've consumed and determine its nutritional value, but another to just take an image of a plate of food and use an application to identify the type of food, the amount of food and nutritional value."

 

Martin Okos, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, oversaw the food density application.

 

"The density of food is needed to convert the volume of food consumed to gram weight so that the app can determine nutritional value," Okos said.

 

Bruce A. Craig, professor and director of the statistical consulting service for Purdue's College of Science Department of Statistics, is also involved with the project. Some funding for the project came from the National Institutes of Health.