Game on: Mobile apps can raise vegetable intake, Australian survey finds
09 May 2018 --- Smartphones could be the key to addressing Australia’s significant under-consumption of vegetables, a new survey from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) reports. CSIRO tracked the number of vegetables eaten daily as a result of their game-like app: VegEze, which was released last November. The findings demonstrated that using fun technology in the bid for a healthier nation was especially successful with men and overweight or obese people.
Launched last year, and commissioned by Hort Innovation, it was hoped that the innovative VegEze app would motivate Australians in their vegetable intake habits. The app uses game-like features to encourage Australian adults to eat more veggies through a 21 day “Do 3 at Dinner” challenge.
CSIRO scientist Dr Gilly Hendrie said the findings of the research showed that adopting the gamified approach, such as the VegEze app, was an effective way of helping improve Australia's poor vegetable score-card.
More than 4000 people took part in the study and of those who completed the challenge, over 80 percent report eating three vegetables with dinner.
“The app has helped tip the scales the most for obese people, with obese men consuming one extra serve and two extra types of vegetables per day, which is a significant increase,” says Dr Hendrie.
“By the end of the challenge, the percentage of obese men that were meeting the Australian Dietary Guidelines vegetable recommendations had increased four times to 30 percent.”
The findings were noticeably weighted towards men, but CSIRO note that a report they published last year highlighted that women generally eat more vegetables than men, which may account for the smaller increase.
“It's an encouraging sign of the times to see how technology can drive healthy eating habits, especially for those groups that need it the most, like men and obese adults,” adds Dr Hendrie.
CSIRO’s bid to enhance Australia’s health
“As Australia's national science agency, we are focused on delivering solutions that are helping Australians live longer, healthier lives.”
The agency encourages people to take up the 21-day challenge, which is free to download, as it also gives local vegetable growers a snapshot into the vegetable eating habits of Australians, giving them an insight on how to better serve customers.
“Australian vegetable growers are constantly adjusting their business practices to best cater to shifting consumer demands,” says John Lloyd, Hort Innovation Chief Executive.
“We have seen this in the rise of easily accessible vegetable snacking options such as smaller-sized beetroots and carrots, cauliflower rice and pre-cut celery.”
“With this insight into potential gaps in the market, growers can now see where innovations are needed to help Australians eat more vegetables while giving them the best produce possible.”
Despite evidence that eating vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, it is estimated that more than 19 million Australians aren't meeting their minimum dietary guideline recommendation.
CSIRO has previously dished out dietary advice in the form of their own diet – the flexi diet – based on research that found that fasting can be an effective way to lose weight and stay healthy.
“This was the largest study exploring the effects of an intermittent fasting style of diet on weight loss, health and nutrient status,” says CSIRO Research Dietitian Dr. Jane Bowen on the research that underpinned the diet. “In addition to improvement in weight loss and overall health, we also observed psychological improvements, with participants indicating better control over eating habits.”
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