Thanks to technology, everything is just a click away, including healthcare. Telemedicine is increasingly becoming popular among people, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Online consultation has enabled doctors to reach out to more patients in remote locations and reduce the cost of healthcare. Further, the application of artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming how healthcare is being delivered. The use of AI powered healthcare apps is growing among people, enabling them to tract their physical activity, sleep, diet, nutrition and more. Are you depending on any diet app or nutrition app for weight management? Are these diet apps really helpful?
Dr Zubeda Tumbi, clinical nutritionist and dietitian, Healthwatch Nutrition Clinic, also associated with Practo, doesn't recommend using just an app for planning your diet to manage your weight or a health condition. Read on to know why.
Q. You provide online nutritional consultation, how it helps you and your patients/clients?
Technology-supported consulting has definitely come of age since the pandemic post 2020! Online nutritional consultation can be credited as a partial solution to the complex challenges of delivering healthcare to an ageing and increasingly diverse population not only nationwide but across the globe. The health service faces rising rates of chronic illness and dependency and online diet therapy consultations have helped me reach out to thousands of patients/clients to help them self-manage their illness and improve on wellness or fitness.
Q. What do you think about AI apps designing a meal for users based on the inputs that they provide (height, weight, food habits, etc.)?
I am a little skeptical about these AI apps which are based on computerized inputs of height, weight, food habits etc; as I feel one can't have a set diet which can be dished out to one and all!
For me personally it is important to talk and establish a rapport and empathize with the patient and the family or caregiver although virtually via Zoom, Webex or WhatsApp video calling. In my practice I find it important to evaluate the persons health and nutrition status with anthropometry i.e. height, weight, BMI, waist circumference (with guidance on video call) but also evaluate the metabolic balance and disease adversity as also the deficiencies with the help of biochemical, ultrasound, X-ray or Dexa or any other investigations the patient may have undergone. This in-depth case taking helps me know the person's health status and or disease risk before I plan a personalized diet considering the environment, availability of food items or help with food preparation or equipment at home.
Q. How helpful and accurate are these diet apps?
I doubt the accuracy and likely impact these app-based service providers have! I have come across a lot of patients who feel cheated with these mechanized diet plan which are being given by Apps or Instagram influencers or self-proclaimed diet coaches who claim their successful weight loss journeys to help other gullible innocent people to lose weight! In fact, I have observed a lot of adverse reactions in people, for example a patient with diabetes who was misguided to eat an only fruit diet and the patient experienced muscle loss and weakness, becoming more prone to infections.
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Q. Has emergence of such diet apps impacted your business?
Not really as patients do read about the consultant or verify whether he/she is qualified before they book appointments. But there is this fear that the lesser educated or rural population or media influenced people may fall to the lure of false promises made by quacks or self-proclaimed diet experts!
Q. What is your final say about diet apps or nutrition apps?
I would strongly recommend that app-based service providers employ qualified dietitians or nutritionist to provide ethical diet plans customized to suit the persons health and disease state; with structured follow ups and maintain medical records to keep the progress reports. Technology should be used right to help save on ever-increasing medical costs! It is important for all to be empowered to make an informed choice! To know about the whys and the hows of disease or for that matter which food helps feed a disease or overcome a deficiency can make or mar a person's health and wellness score.