The reduction of obesity is a major public health challenge. Obesity in both children and adults has increased substantially over the last decade in the UK, affecting 15% of children aged 2-10, and around a quarter of men and women, in 2007. Furthermore, excess weight can lead to a number of debilitating conditions for the sufferer including cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
A major challenge for applications that aim to help users make healthier eating choices is that of objectively measuring nutritional intake. Food diaries, the most popular current method of doing so, are personal logbooks for recording daily food intake that are used under the guidance of a professional dietitian. Although very successful, this method cannot scale because of the reliance on dieticians to translate photographs into nutritional data. Government has guidelines for healthy eating in an attempt to face these challenges, most notably with the introduction of www.eatwell.org.uk. The "Eatwell Plate" is a set of guidelines that show the correct proportions of food type that are part of a balanced diet. See http://www.eatwell.gov.uk/healthydiet/eatwellplate/
Playtter is a mobile application that uses social media to connect people around food diaries based on these government guidelines. The application enables users to use their phone to upload digital photos of meals that they have eaten to a central server. These photos are then anonymously shared amongst the web site users who are asked to "tag" the nutritional content of the photo. Users do this by entering in the proportions of nutritional content that appear in the photograph based on the FSA's "Eatwell Plate" guidelines. By collating several tags by different users for each meal, we can get a reliable idea of nutritional content of a meal based on the photograph. These photographs, collected as a longer term commitment to using Playtter as an online food diary, will give users a clear picture of the nutritional facts of their general diet over longer time periods. Playtter is also able to generate tips on how to improve their diet based on these personalised statistics.
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