Food delivery apps can potentially help reduce obesity

Food delivery apps advised to introduce tweaks that allow users to customise calories in their meal

By Web Desk
May 24, 2023
This picture shows a delivery guy on his way to deliver food for the UK-based Deliveroo app. — AFP/File

Food delivery apps may potentially help decrease obesity by offering food options with fewer calories more prominently on their sites, new research revealed Wednesday.

According to Guardian, the study sponsored by Nesta, a UK-based, health-focused charity, recorded reductions of up to 15% in the calorie consumption of users who used a food delivery app, simulated to offer low-calorie options on its site.


During the study, presented at the European Congress of Obesity in Dublin, the simulated food delivery app was used to conduct three randomised controlled trials. There were 23,783 adults who participated in the study.

"In each trial, participants were asked to choose a meal for themselves like they would in real life and then the number of calories in their basket at checkout was measured."

"It looked at different interventions within the app, including pre-selecting smaller portions by default, positioning lower-calorie foods more prominently, and displaying calorie labels. There was also a control group where the simulated app had no changes."

The results of the trials where the app was changed, recorded a lower number of calories on average whereas the control group recorded an average of 1,408 kcal.

The study suggested food delivery apps "provide a filter letting users switch calorie labels on and off; communicate recommended energy intake per meal and not just per day; and avoid framing calorie label messaging or formatting as judgmental, such as by using red font."

Dr Filippo Bianchi, who led the research, said the findings provided: “Encouraging proof-of-concept evidence that small tweaks in delivery apps could help many people to identify and select healthier foods".

“Testing similar initiatives with real restaurants and delivery apps will be important to assess the long-term impact of these interventions in the real world," he added.

Since 2015, the use of food delivery apps in the UK has increased by 55%, while 25 million adults show regular use of such apps.

Such developments have added to its existing obesity crisis, as indicated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in a report published last year.