Monash University Project To Capture Food Consumption Data In Malaysia

The project will allow for more accurate capture of dietary data and help to better inform public health policies in Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 – Monash University Malaysia, Monash University’s Action Lab, and experts from the University of Cambridge’s MRC Epidemiology Unit are collaborating to help inform and enhance public health and nutrition policy in Malaysia.

Adapting Intake24, an open-source online tool used for recording dietary intake information, the project intends to allow for more accurate capture of dietary data and help to better inform public health policies in Malaysia. 

Nutrition scientist and project lead Dr Amutha Ramadas from the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Monash University Malaysia said the country is experiencing an increasing trend in diet-related non-communicable diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cardio-metabolic diseases.

“The development of effective interventions for these conditions requires us to understand the diet of a specific population,” she said.

Intake24 is a technology-based alternative to capture food consumption data from participants. The web-based dietary recall tool includes a comprehensive food list which is linked to food composition data and food portion size images.

The entire recording process takes around 20 minutes to complete, and the nutritional composition of the participant’s food consumption can be downloaded as soon as the data has been submitted.

Traditional ways of dietary data collection for research rely on pen and paper-based methods followed by interviewer-led surveys. These methods are resource intensive in terms of time, costs and burden on the participants.

The system was originally developed in the United Kingdom for Food Standards Scotland by Prof Patrick Olivier, director of Monash University’s Action Lab and human-computer interaction expert, and nutrition researcher Dr Emma Foster.  

“This project will develop Intake24 for use in Malaysia, including translation to Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil, the addition of foods to the database to cover the diverse range of ingredients and dishes consumed in the region, food photographs for portion size estimation of regional foods and links to food composition data,” said Dr Foster. 

The researchers plan to develop Intake24 Malaysia by 2023 and start capturing participant data in Malaysia by 2024.

Monash University Malaysia President and Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof Matthew Nicholson said that Intake24 Malaysia would collect data to improve public health through better surveillance, as well as develop research measures and systems that compare the dietary intakes of Malaysians against the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines.

“In doing so, Monash University Malaysia will be establishing the foundation for future research in diet and nutrition in Malaysia and the region,” he said. 

Intake24 is currently used by the UK Department of Health in their National Diet and Nutrition Survey and has been adapted and developed for several other countries including the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Denmark, and countries in South Asia. In Australia, it will be used in the upcoming National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey in January 2023. 

Action Lab, part of the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University, is a cross-disciplinary research group whose mission is to undertake impactful digital innovation in partnership with communities and NGOs.

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