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Clinical Research

Assessing temporal eating pattern in free living humans through the myCircadianClock app

Abstract

The quality and quantity of nutrition impact health. However, chrononutrition, the timing, and variation of food intake in relation to the daily sleep-wake cycle are also important contributors to health. This has necessitated an urgent need to measure, analyze, and optimize eating patterns to improve health and manage disease. While written food journals, questionnaires, and 24-hour dietary recalls are acceptable methods to assess the quantity and quality of energy consumption, they are insufficient to capture the timing and day-to-day variation of energy intake. Smartphone applications are novel methods for information-dense real-time food and beverage tracking. Despite the availability of thousands of commercial nutrient apps, they almost always ignore eating patterns, and the raw real-time data is not available to researchers for monitoring and intervening in eating patterns. Our lab developed a smartphone app called myCircadianClock (mCC) and associated software to enable long-term real-time logging that captures temporal components of eating patterns. The mCC app runs on iOS and android operating systems and can be used to track multiple cohorts in parallel studies. The logging burden is decreased by using a timestamped photo and annotation of the food/beverage being logged. Capturing temporal data of consumption in free-living individuals over weeks/months has provided new insights into diverse eating patterns in the real world. This review discusses (1) chrononutrition and the importance of understanding eating patterns, (2) the myCircadianClock app, (3) validation of the mCC app, (4) clinical trials to assess the timing of energy intake, and (5) strengths and limitations of the mCC app.

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Fig. 1: 95% eating window compared to a daily eating interval.
Fig. 2: Adults have a long eating window.
Fig. 3
Fig. 4: The myCircadianClock app user interface.
Fig. 5: The myCircadianClock digital platform.

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Acknowledgements

ENCM is supported by the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. SP is supported by NIH grant DK118278, DK124484, AG065569, the Department of Homeland Security (EMW-2016-FP-00788), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (76014), and William Doner Foundation.

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ENCM and SP conceptualized the manuscript. ENCM, JW-S, and SP wrote and edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Emily N. C. Manoogian or Satchidananda Panda.

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Dr. Panda is the Author of The Circadian Code and The Circadian Diabetes Code, for which he collects a nominal author royalty.

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Manoogian, E.N.C., Wei-Shatzel, J. & Panda, S. Assessing temporal eating pattern in free living humans through the myCircadianClock app. Int J Obes 46, 696–706 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-021-01038-3

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