Novel device may help track diet quality in schoolchildren
Veggie Meter, a novel reflection spectroscopy-based device, can reliably assess nutritional status in children and determine fruit and vegetable intake, according to a recent study.
“The tool is objective and overcomes bias inherent in self-reported [fruit and vegetable] intake measures,” researchers said. “The Veggie Meter may also alleviate time and resource challenges related to collecting dietary intake data from children and adolescents in school and community-based settings.”
In 112 preschoolers (mean age, 4.1±0.5 years; 57 percent male) enrolled in the study, the mean Veggie Meter reading was 266±82.9. In 94 middle-schoolers (mean age, 12.8±0.6 years; 39 percent male) and 58 high-schoolers (mean age, 15.3±1.3 years; 34 percent male), the readings were 219±68.1 and 214±65.6, respectively. [J Hum Nutr Diet 2020;doi:10.1111/jhn.12755]
In middle school participants, Veggie Meter results were significantly and inversely correlated with soda intake (r, –0.2210; p=0.0332). In contrast, the device was unable to reliably quantify the diet quality in terms of fruit and vegetable intake, with p-values ranging from 0.2452 to 0.9080 for different foods.
The reflection spectroscopy device was similarly underpowered in the preschool and high school participants. In both groups, readings did not significantly correlate with consumption patterns of soda or sweetened beverages, nor with different fruits and vegetables.
Of note, in high school students, the Veggie Meter was able to quantify daily fruit intake with borderline significance (r, 0.2549; p=0.0557).
Moreover, the Veggie Meter was able to detect significant patterns in terms of skin carotenoid. In preschoolers, for example, males had significantly greater skin carotenoids than females (282.53±75.14 vs 243.44±88.95; p=0.0159). This was also true in middle schoolers (233.58±60.95 vs 204.38±67.62; p=0.0515) and, to a lesser degree, in high school students.
“The mean skin carotenoid status was higher in the preschool versus middle- and high-school students. Furthermore, the mean skin carotenoid status among males was higher than females in preschool, middle- and high school students,” the researchers summarized.
“It is unclear why this may be, but carotenoid status is influenced by several factors, including matrix of food, lipid consumed with the carotenoids, smoking status, age and sex,” they explained. “There was a positive association between skin carotenoids and fruit intake in high-school students, which is what would be expected given several fruits contain carotenoids.”
The findings of the present study should be viewed in consideration of several methodological pitfalls. The small sample size and volunteer-based enrolment may limit the generalizability of the conclusions, for instance, while fruit and vegetable intake assessment according to self-reports may have implications on bias.
Importantly, the device itself measures skin carotenoids and may therefore underestimate actual intake levels because some fruits and vegetables do not contain carotenoids.
“The present study determined that it is feasible to use the Veggie Meter in preschool, middle- and high-school-based settings,” the researchers said. “The Veggie Meter was easy to set up and only required a small space, making it practical to use in school and community-based settings.”