Diet is the leading predictor of health status, including all-cause mortality, in the modern world, yet is rarely measured; whereas virtually every adult in a developed country knows their approximate blood pressure, hardly any knows their objective diet quality. Leading authorities have called for the inclusion of nutrition in every electronic health record as one of the many remedial steps required to give dietary quality the routine attention it warrants. Existing tools to capture dietary intake are based on either real-time journaling or recall. Journaling, or logging, is time and labor intensive. Recall is notoriously unreliable, as humans are notably bad at remembering detail. Even allowing for the challenge of recall, these dietary intake methods are labor and time intensive, and require analysis at the n-of-1 level. We hypothesize that dietary intake assessment can be “reverse engineered”-predicating assessment on the recognition of fully formed dietary patterns-rather than endeavoring to assemble such a representation one food, meal, dish, or day at a time. This pattern recognition-based method offers potential advantages over exiting methods, including speed, efficiency, cost, and applicability. We have developed and provisionally tested such a system, and the results thus far support our hypothesis. We are convinced that leveraging pattern recognition to make dietary assessment quick, user-friendly, economical, and scalable can allow for the conversion of dietary quality into a universally measured and routinely managed vital sign. In this paper, we present the supporting case.
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