myfood24 is an online food diary system, initially developed at the University of Leeds by Professor Janet Cade to enable researchers to accurately and efficiently analyse nutritional intake at scale, for example in large epidemiology studies. The project to create and validate myfood24 was funded by ~£1m grant from the Medical Research Council. In 2017, due to the high demand, Dietary Assessment Ltd was spun-out of the University to continue developing myfood24.
Since then, myfood24 has supported research organisations across the globe to conduct high-quality and robust research into the impact of diet on a range of health conditions such as diabetes, cancer and motor neurone disease. myfood24 is available in English, Danish, German, French and Norwegian with appropriate and local food composition databases for each, with more versions under development! myfood24 has also been tailored for use in education supporting both face-to-face and remote online teaching.
The team are now developing a version specifically for use within a healthcare setting including a patient facing app to support accurate and remote dietary monitoring that’s designed to help healthcare professionals and their patients improve nutritional assessments and ultimately improve dietary choices. We expect the solution will be used across a range of health conditions from obesity and type 2 diabetes to cancer and heart disease – in fact, anywhere where diet has an influence.
We spoke to Lauren Gibson, Marketing Manager at Dietary Assessment Ltd about myfood24 and her experience of being on the Propel@YH programme.
What was the idea borne out of/ what is the main challenge that the product is trying to solve?
Within a healthcare setting healthcare professionals (HCPs) are still lacking the quick and easy-to-use tools they need to accurately monitor a patient’s nutritional intake, which is key in preventing and managing diet-related conditions; the prevalence of which continue to grow at great speed costing the NHS and wider society billions of pounds every year.
Instead HCPs typically resort to handwritten food diaries (completed by the patient) which are then manually entered into often clunky nutritional analysis software, which lacks branded-level data, by the HCP – a process which is laborious and can lead to errors in interpretation. This also means that it tends to be the HCP who sees the corresponding nutritional information, making it hard for the patient to understand how their diet translates into nutrition content.
Some HCPs may instead refer patients to use consumer apps to record their diet, however their databases tend to be crowdsourced meaning their accuracy is questionable and they often have missing nutrient information as they typically focus on calories. In this case, it tends to only be the patient who sees the nutritional data leaving the HCP at a loss for the detailed nutritional information they’re keen to see.
We wanted to create a robust, quick and easy to use system that was appropriate for use by HCPs and their patients to accurately assess and monitor nutritional intake to help identify those patients who may need more support, ultimately to improve health outcomes through better nutrition.
When did the idea first move into development?
It’s always been Janet’s vision for dietary assessments to form part of routine healthcare but the idea first gathered traction when we secured an Innovate UK grant looking into the feasibility of such a tool. We engaged with key stakeholders including clinical teams and patients for this project and received such positive feedback, it was really encouraging. The output of the project was a set of requirements and use cases for myfood24 and we really started developing from there.
Who is the main target audience for the platform?
The myfood24 healthcare solution is aimed at patients with conditions where diet and nutrition can impact on their treatment, management and recovery. Patients have their own smartphone app to record their dietary intake and can monitor progress against their personalised nutrient targets set by their HCP. HCPs are able to access these results through a web portal and remotely monitor their patients progress and view these results prior to consultations to help tailor support plans.
Is the platform live? If not, where in the development stage is the project at?
Currently our research and education solution is live but our healthcare platform is in the final stage of development – we’re hoping to launch this towards in late February/early March so watch this space!
We have a pilot study already lined up to test our solution within a clinical setting focusing on gastroenterology patients and Tier 3 Weight Management patients, and we’re really excited to get this started and see the results.
You can try a demo of the myfood24 food diary, which is at the core of the solution, for free by registering here: https://www.myfood24.org/try-a-demo
How did you find the Propel@YH application process?
The application process ran very smoothly despite being interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic but Jon Fordham and the team were not to be defeated. Jon was really helpful throughout, ensuring I was kept up-to-date with progress and was happy to answer any questions I had and provide guidance where necessary. Thanks, Jon!
What have you found the most insightful or useful part of the programme so far?
The programme has been great, every speaker has been extremely knowledgeable about their subject area and always willing to provide additional help and guidance. In particular, the Clinical Safety Masterclass run by Stuart Harrison (ETHOS Ltd) was very insightful and an area I was particularly keen to learn about as part of the programme. I’m also looking forward to the Evidence and Evaluation Masterclass that’s due later this week – another area I’m keen to learn more about.
What advice would you give to yourself if you were to apply again?
Go for it.