Sirpa Kurppa, a research professor at the Natural Resources Institute of Finland, glances at her pedometer. “We are walking data repositories, but only by combining our own information with dietary guidelines we can solve major public health issues.”
The Finnish dietary guidelines and the free or heavily subsidized children’s and students’ canteens are a well-functioning system from an international point of view. According to professor Kurppa, public kitchens are fast to react to changes in the guidelines, but there is room for improvement.
“It would be easy to incorporate a personal guide function to this system. My own pedometer is quite simple, but devices that give information on need for energy and liquids are becoming more and more popular. All that is needed, is a common platform that pick information from the wrist or the mobile phone and incorporates this information into canteen services.”
Professor Kurppa believes that an instructive, smart food services application would function better than a doctor’s or a nutritional therapist’s talk about healthy choices.
“This information can be managed by us personally, unlike an expert’s talk that we tend to react negatively to.”
Kurppa points out, that we often behave inconsistently. We might feel regret for the coffee and pastry with the mother-in-law yesterday and try to compensate it by fasting for a day, which again makes us return to sweets.
“It does not work. My pedometer notices, that today is a day full of meetings and that I have only walked for 3,000 steps. It gives a kind reminder that tomorrow it would be good to try to walk for 7,000 steps. In the same way, a smart device can encourage to rectify errors in the diet in the long run.”
Artificial intelligence helps the society
There are many ways to apply smart solutions. Kurppa proposes photo functions for canteen services for the elderly in order to find out how much of the portions has been eaten and, in the future, using genetic information for creating a personal diet.
Using artificial intelligence is profitable for the society, says Kurppa.
“We already buy different kinds of applications. If we think about who would pay for the platform connecting all the information, I would like to point out that the costs related to lifestyle diseases connected to food are very high.”
For example, in 2016, the global costs for diabetes treatments were 690 billion euros. In Finland only, the annual direct costs related to type II diabetes are more than three billion euros.
“We cannot afford this indefinitely.”