The University of Newcastle, Australia

Call for pregnant women to trial visual app for diet control

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

A smartphone app that uses augmented reality to help with diet management during pregnancy has received highly positive feedback from women trialling it.

pregnancy app study

Dietitian Hannah Brown, a University of Newcastle PhD candidate who is leading the study, now hopes to enrol more expectant mums during their important second trimester.

The ServAR app superimposes an image of a standard serve size of various foods that are high in carbohydrate onto your dinner plate. Preliminary results show the app is easing confusion for pregnant women when choosing how much to eat and making appropriate food choices.

“Knowing what to eat, and how much to eat, during pregnancy is a major challenge. Being bombarded with nutrition information can be overwhelming for pregnant women,” Ms Brown said. “They are unsure what to believe when it comes to food advice, especially when it comes to carbohydrates.

“This is a major concern because carbohydrate-rich foods like bread and breakfast cereal contain added folate and iodine that’s important in helping prevent some birth defects. Pregnant women need the right amount of these foods – along with pasta, starchy vegetables, fruit and legumes – to help achieve the best health outcomes for themselves and their babies.”

Previous research has found that high blood sugar levels, even among women who don’t have gestational diabetes, can adversely affect both mother and baby. Knowing about carbohydrate portion sizes therefore plays an important role in preventing adverse health outcomes, such as birth complications.

Ms Brown says that preliminary results of the app trial have been very promising, with participants agreeing that it makes them more aware of how much carbohydrate-rich food they’re eating.

“Women tell us they want to be sure the nutrition advice they receive comes from trusted health professionals, so this is where our app comes in. Also, the nutrition information and resources in the app have been extremely popular,” she adds.

“It has increased their confidence in improving their eating behaviours and we’re seeing this in the Australian Eating Survey results, which indicate that they’ve increased their intake of healthy core foods and decreased their intake of unhealthy discretionary foods.”

Almost 90 per cent of respondents felt the portion size app improved their awareness of portion sizes while around 80 per cent agreed that ServAR provided valuable information about nutrition.

The study team comprising Professor Clare Collins, Hannah Brown, Dr Tamara Bucher and Dr Megan Rollo are looking for women Australia-wide who are 12-22 weeks pregnant – see https://tinyurl.com/pregnancystudyUON

HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community


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