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Published on 30.12.16 in Vol 2, No 1 (2016): December

This paper is in the following e-collection/theme issue:


    Visual Food Diary for Social Support, Dietary Changes and Weight Loss

    1Department of Food and Environmental Sciences, Division of Nutrition, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    2FiMM, Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    3Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    *these authors contributed equally

    Corresponding Author:

    Heli Salmenius-Suominen, BAppSc

    Department of Food and Environmental Sciences, Division of Nutrition

    University of Helsinki

    PL 66

    Helsinki, 00014


    Phone: 358 405036811

    Fax:358 405036811



    Background: To find out to what degree health-improving dietary behavior (eg, increasing consumption of vegetables and fruits) can be furthered in virtual peer support groups moderated by a nutrition professional using a mobile app.

    Objective: To find out, to what degree health improving dietary behaviour, for example increasing the use of vegetables and fruits can be furthered in virtual peer support groups moderated by a nutrition professional using a mobile application.

    Methods: In this feasibility study, volunteering adult men and women (body mass index [BMI]>25 kg/m²) were recruited both from a diabetes outpatient clinic and from an occupational health care unit. Participants were divided into 3 groups. All participants used a smartphone app that allowed them to keep a visual food journal, share their meals and activity with group members, and receive virtual coaching from a nutrition professional. Outcomes were assessed via surveys at baseline, after the intervention, and 4 weeks later using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Frequency of app use, weight, and waist circumference were estimated at baseline and after the intervention.

    Results: Mean weight loss (n=25) after intervention was 1.5 kg (95% CI 0.79 to 2.29), or 1.7% (95% CI 0.89 to 2.5) in all subjects together, and 1.5% in group 1 (95% CI –0.02 to 2.9), 1.9% in group 2 (95% CI 0.56 to 3.25), and 1.7% in group 3 (95% CI –0.20 to 3.61), respectively. Mean waist circumference (n=22) reduced 2.4% (95 % CI 1.3 to 3.4). At the end of the 4-week intervention, the consumption of vegetables and fruits (n=26) had increased by 55%, while the consumption of sweets and chocolate had decreased by 39% as compared to baseline. Almost all participants (84%) strongly agreed (40%) or agreed (44%) that they got support and encouragement from other group members. Similarly, altogether 92% of participants strongly agreed (67%) or agreed (25%) that they felt like they belonged to the group. The engagement level was high, with the average user uploading 5.2 meals a day and recording a total of 9.3 sessions a day. There was some variation between the 3 groups. On average, users in groups 1, 2, and 3 uploaded 3.8 (n=8, 862 meals), 5.8 (n=8, 1315 meals) and 5.7 (n=11, 1774 meals) meals a day, respectively, within the 4 week period. In total, the participants uploaded 3951 meals and recorded 7066 sessions.

    Conclusions: Smartphone-based virtual peer support can be used as a tool to promote healthy eating both in outpatient clinic and occupational health settings.

    iproc 2016;2(1):e38



    This poster was presented at the Connected Health Symposium 2016, October 20-21, Boston, MA, United States. The poster is displayed as an image in Figure 1 and as a PDF in Multimedia Appendix 1.

    Figure 1. Poster.
    View this figure

    Multimedia Appendix 1


    PDF File (Adobe PDF File), 1MB

    Edited by T Hale; submitted 05.06.16; peer-reviewed by CHS Scientific Program Committee; accepted 02.08.16; published 30.12.16

    ©Heli Salmenius-Suominen, Mikko Lehtovirta, Henna Vepsäläinen, Hanna Konttinen, Maijaliisa Erkkola. Originally published in Iproceedings (, 30.12.2016.

    This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in Iproceedings, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.