New App For Healthy Food Switches

Published on: 29 Jan 2018

HealthA new app is being released through a collaborative effort which will help shoppers to make healthier choices.

The app will be aimed towards those who are overweight and have been identified as at risk of cardiovascular disease, and will use their shopping basket to help them change their diets.

Collaborative Effort

An unnamed UK supermarket chain has gone into collaboration with public health researchers to develop the app. It will be a new generation of the FoodSwitch app, giving even more personalised advice for shoppers.

Tesco has been known to conduct studies into the nutritional content of their customers’ shopping baskets, though it is not known whether they are the supermarket chain in question.

The project is intended as research and development for the obesity crisis, which will help people to decide whether they should purchase one item flagged up as unhealthy or go for a suggested alternative to be found in the same store. The idea is that they will use the app to identify all of their products using the traffic light nutritional labels on the front of packs. When red labels come up for sugar, salt, or saturated fat, they will be redirected to choose something else.

“We are just about to embark on two new trials where we motivate and support individuals to make changes in their diet,” ​ said Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, when delivering the British Nutrition Foundation’s Annual Lecture in November 2017. “What we are trying to do in these two studies is to build a partnership between health professionals and some digital and technological tools in order to provide people with personalised support to change their diet.”

Hope For Health

There will be a two-pronged attack on at-risk patients to try to help them to change their lifestyles. One part of the prong is the app.

“It will allow people to set goals and monitor their intake and then provide feedback,” said Jebb.

Health foodThen there is the second prong: practice nurses in GP surgeries. They will be working with patients who have high blood pressure or raised levels of cholesterol and trying to both educate and motivate them in terms of dietary change.

“We have partnered with one retailer,” Jebb continued. “What we will be doing is providing people with nutritional feedback based on their loyalty card data. This will tell you about the nutritional content of your basket and provide tailored swaps and, hopefully, improve the nutritional profile of your basket.”

The projects will be trials for the moment. Whether they come into full force across the nation in the future remains to be seen, and will of course be based on how well they are received. It will be important to keep an eye on food news in the coming months to see further reports on the study’s progress.

“These are both feasibility studies,” Jebb explained. “If they show any signs of effectiveness, we will obviously take them forward into bigger more definitive trials.”

This could be a great way to get people making a healthier start, but it is dependent on a few things. First, the patient has to agree to download and use the app, and they have to be shopping with a retailer that is part of the scheme. Then, they will need to actually pay attention to the warnings flashing up in the app, and consider making the changes suggested.

Finally, this behaviour needs to be habit-forming, and long-lasting. That may be the biggest challenge of all, and will take time to assess.