Social media tackling obesity one picture at a time
Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Studies and studies time and again report that we as a society are growing – and it’s not just in numbers I am talking about. A joint study between Statistics Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted between 2007 and 2009 concluded that approximately 1 in every 4 Canadians are obese, compared with nearly 1 in every 3 Americans.

Now I know that life’s stresses can get in the way of eating healthy – but what if I told you that a new social media tool can help make it easier for you?

A recent iPhone application – called MealSnap app and costing $2.99 – allows you to retrieve an instant calorie count just by taking a picture of your chosen food article. It works by matching the picture with a database of some 500,000 food items. Within minutes users receive a message specifying the range of calories for that food category, as well as being provided with other pertinent information such as the proteins, fat, carbs, vitamins etc.

Developed by a fitness social network named DailyBurn, users can then choose to share what they’ve eaten on Twitter or FourSquare. With the support of your peers, the idea is you’ll be held accountable for what you eat and encouraged to choose right.

Furthermore, users are able to keep a record of the food they devour as the pictures get stored into a ‘visual food diary’. As many studies report that people who record what they eat are more likely to lose weight, this method is a whole lot easier than actually taking the time to write down everything you consume.

This being said, naturally this app has its limitations, namely that it can fail to identify food correctly at times and that the calorie count for each food category may be too broad to be useful. However, users are permitted to rate the accuracy of each classification, thus improving the validity of each read-out.

Now I don’t know about you, but if this app is telling me that the salad at the restaurant has more calories than the burger (which you laugh but this is sometimes the case), I will gladly oblige and eat the burger.

– Cassandra Tavares –

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