The prevalence of obesity remains at epidemic levels in the U.S. and worldwide. Currently, research on obesity and advances in effective public health approaches to prevention and treatment of obesity are substantially hampered by the lack of accurate, low burden methods for self-assessment of food intake. This translational research project will develop a prototype multimodal program designed to become a state-of-the- art method for self-assessment of energy and nutrient intakes. The program will allow users to interact with a custom-designed spoken dialogue system to solicit sufficient information to determine quantitative amounts of specific food items, from which detailed reports of energy and nutrient intakes will be calculated using published data on food composition. We will use our previously developed WAMI (Web-accessible Multimodal Interface) framework as the underlying infrastructure. The prototype will be tested in adult men and women, who will make audio recordings of their food intake and simultaneously use the new program over 7 days. Types and amounts of foods consumed, time taken to assess daily intake, and calculated energy intake will be compared between the new method and conventional calculations based on the audio recording. The prototype is expected to justify further developmental work and creation of a program that is both more accurate and with lower user burden that existing methods. The new program is novel and highly innovative because it will include: 1) the first use of speech understanding technology as part of multimodal dialogue interaction to reduce user burden during accurate identification of consumed foods;2) first use of natural spoken language understanding technology to further reduce user burden;and 3) additional options to enhance accuracy and reduce user burden including individualization of food composition by users. The project is very feasible because the multidisciplinary team has extensive expertise in both the development of multimodal and speech understanding software and validation of food intake methods, and has also obtained preliminary data relevant to the application.
There is widespread recognition that new methods for self-assessment of food intake are needed that are both accurate and low burden for users. Such methods will be used in both research studies on relationships between diet and disease and in self-monitoring of energy intake for the prevention and treatment of obesity. The new prototype food intake program developed in this project will be an important methodological advance and is expected to lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of relationships between nutrition and health.