FFHI Researchers Team with UC Davis Dining Commons to Conduct Nutrition Study

Undergraduate research interns Adaeze Ezeagwula, Jewel Esparza, Melanie Hercules (left to right) measuring dietary intake of study participants at Cuarto Dining Commons
Undergraduate research interns Adaeze Ezeagwula, Jewel Esparza, Melanie Hercules (left to right) measuring dietary intake of study participants at Cuarto DC.

Written by Melissa Vilas

In fall 2018, researchers at the Food for Health Institute conducted a ‘Nutrition Tracking Study’ to explore how new technologies can be used to measure dietary intake and nutrition. The project team included Sara Schaefer, PhD (Principal Investigator), Sarah Dimitratos, RD (Registered Dietitian & PhD Student) and 25 research interns majoring in Clinical Nutrition, Nutrition Science and Food Science & Technology.

The study examined how well new technologies can measure the dietary intake and nutrition of participants; specifically aiming to validate a wristband technology (GoBe2™) that automatically estimates personal calorie intake and expenditure, hydration level, heart rate, stress and sleep. If reliable, such tools provide non-invasive ways to measure the diet and nutrition of individuals. Study participants also used continuous glucose monitors (FreeStyle Libre™) to cross-measure their physiologic response to food.

The project teamed with the UC Davis Dining Commons (DC) to carry out the dietary observation study in one of three DC facilities on campus. Thirty-five participants (18-40 y) were enrolled in two 14-day testing periods during which all meals would be carefully calibrated and consumed at Cuarto or Segundo DC under the observation of research staff. The Dietitian designed a ‘project menu’ in coordination with the DC’s regular scheduled menu cycle. Head chefs, Roger Thompson (Cuarto DC) and Cesar Cienfuegos (Segundo DC), coordinated the timely preparation of the project menu at each breakfast, lunch and dinner. Teams of interns were tasked to measure, weigh and record each participants food intake and then calculate individual energy and macronutrient intakes.

This study was critical to evaluate new ways scientists can track individuals’ dietary intake and nutrition, as standard methods have proven to be tedious and unreliable. Throughout the study, research participants also benefited from being able to track their own nutrition and health data, and engaged with a Registered Dietitian to receive nutritional feedback and guidance.