British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

A review of the use of information and communication technologies for dietary assessment

Joy Ngoa1 c1, Anouk Engelena1, Marja Molaga2, Joni Roeslea1, Purificación García-Segoviaa3 and Lluís Serra-Majema1a4

a1 Community Nutrition Research Centre of the Nutrition Research Foundation, University of Barcelona Science Park, Baldiri Reixac 4, 08028 Barcelona, Spain

a2 Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, PO Box 8129, 6700 EV Wageningen, The Netherlands

a3 UPV Science Park, Building 8E, Esc. F, Piso 0 Dpcho 02, Polytechnical University of Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n, 46 022 Valencia, Spain

a4 Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, PO Box 550, 35080 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain


Presently used dietary-assessment methods often present difficulties for researchers and respondents, and misreporting errors are common. Methods using information and communication technologies (ICT) may improve quality and accuracy. The present paper presents a systematic literature review describing studies applying ICT to dietary assessment. Eligible papers published between January 1995 and February 2008 were classified into four assessment categories: computerised assessment; personal digital assistants (PDA); digital photography; smart cards. Computerised assessments comprise frequency questionnaires, 24 h recalls (24HR) and diet history assessments. Self-administered computerised assessments, which can include audio support, may reduce literacy problems, be translated and are useful for younger age groups, but less so for those unfamiliar with computers. Self-administered 24HR utilising computers yielded comparable results as standard methods, but needed supervision if used in children. Computer-assisted interviewer-administered recall results were similar to conventional recalls, and reduced inter-interviewer variability. PDA showed some advantages but did not reduce underreporting. Mobile phone meal photos did not improve PDA accuracy. Digital photography for assessing individual food intake in dining facilities was accurate for adults and children, although validity was slightly higher with direct visual observation. Smart cards in dining facilities were useful for measuring food choice but not total dietary intake. In conclusion, computerised assessments and PDA are promising, and could improve dietary assessment quality in some vulnerable groups and decrease researcher workload. Both still need comprehensive evaluation for micronutrient intake assessment. Further work is necessary for improving ICT tools in established and new methods and for their rigorous evaluation.

(Received February 04 2009)

(Revised May 06 2009)

(Accepted June 01 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Joy Ngo, fax +34 93 403 45 43, email


On behalf of EURRECA's RA 1.1 ‘Intake Methods’ members: Serra-Majem L (Coordinator), Cavelaars A, Dhonukshe-Rutten R, Doreste JL, Frost-Andersen L, García-Álvarez A, Glibetic M, Gurinovic M, De Groot L, Henríquez-Sánchez P, Naska A, Ngo J, Novakovic R, Ortiz-Andrellucchi A, Øverby NC, Pijls L, Ranic M, Ribas-Barba L, Ristic-Medic D, Román-Viñas B, Ruprich J, Saavedra-Santana P, Sánchez-Villegas A, Tabacchi G, Tepsic J, Trichopoulou A, van 't Veer P, Vucic V, Wijnhoven TMA.

Abbreviations: ICT, information and communication technologies; IMM, interactive multimedia; MeSH, medical subject headings; PDA, personal digital assistants; YANA-C, young adolescents' nutrition assessment on computer; DH, diet history; EBIS, diet history, consulting and information system; FIRSSt, Food intake recording software system