Carbohydrate Estimation by a Mobile Phone-Based System Versus Self-Estimations of Individuals With Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: A Comparative Study

Rhyner, Daniel Kaspar; Loher, Hannah; Dehais, Joachim Blaise; Anthimopoulos, Marios; Shevchik, Sergey; Botwey, Ransford Henry; Duke, David; Stettler, Christoph; Diem, Peter; Mougiakakou, Stavroula (2016). Carbohydrate Estimation by a Mobile Phone-Based System Versus Self-Estimations of Individuals With Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: A Comparative Study. Journal of medical internet research, 18(5), e101. Centre of Global eHealth Innovation 10.2196/jmir.5567

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Background: Diabetes mellitus is spreading throughout the world and diabetic individuals have been shown to often assess their food intake inaccurately; therefore, it is a matter of urgency to develop automated diet assessment tools. The recent availability of mobile phones with enhanced capabilities, together with the advances in computer vision, have permitted the development of image analysis apps for the automated assessment of meals. GoCARB is a mobile phone-based system designed to support individuals with type 1 diabetes during daily carbohydrate estimation. In a typical scenario, the user places a reference card next to the dish and acquires two images using a mobile phone. A series of computer vision modules detect the plate and automatically segment and recognize the different food items, while their 3D shape is reconstructed. Finally, the carbohydrate content is calculated by combining the volume of each food item with the nutritional information provided by the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

Objective: The main objective of this study is to assess the accuracy of the GoCARB prototype when used by individuals with type 1 diabetes and to compare it to their own performance in carbohydrate counting. In addition, the user experience and usability of the system is evaluated by questionnaires.

Methods: The study was conducted at the Bern University Hospital, “Inselspital” (Bern, Switzerland) and involved 19 adult volunteers with type 1 diabetes, each participating once. Each study day, a total of six meals of broad diversity were taken from the hospital’s restaurant and presented to the participants. The food items were weighed on a standard balance and the true amount of carbohydrate was calculated from the USDA nutrient database. Participants were asked to count the carbohydrate content of each meal independently and then by using GoCARB. At the end of each session, a questionnaire was completed to assess the user’s experience with GoCARB.

Results: The mean absolute error was 27.89 (SD 38.20) grams of carbohydrate for the estimation of participants, whereas the corresponding value for the GoCARB system was 12.28 (SD 9.56) grams of carbohydrate, which was a significantly better performance ( P=.001). In 75.4% (86/114) of the meals, the GoCARB automatic segmentation was successful and 85.1% (291/342) of individual food items were successfully recognized. Most participants found GoCARB easy to use.

Conclusions: This study indicates that the system is able to estimate, on average, the carbohydrate content of meals with higher accuracy than individuals with type 1 diabetes can. The participants thought the app was useful and easy to use. GoCARB seems to be a well-accepted supportive mHealth tool for the assessment of served-on-a-plate meals.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > University Emergency Center
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Endocrinology (DFKE) > Clinic of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Clinical Nutrition
10 Strategic Research Centers > ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research

UniBE Contributor:

Rhyner, Daniel Kaspar, Loher, Hannah, Dehais, Joachim Blaise, Anthimopoulos, Marios, Shevchik, Sergey, Botwey, Ransford Henry, Stettler, Christoph, Diem, Peter, Mougiakakou, Stavroula


000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




Centre of Global eHealth Innovation


[UNSPECIFIED] European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IAPP), Grant agreement no. 286408.




Stavroula Mougiakakou

Date Deposited:

06 Jun 2016 10:47

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:56

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