Imagine a nutrition app that not only tracks what you eat but makes suggestions of foods you like that you should consume to get the recommended amount of a certain nutrient, without getting too much of another nutrient.
A Morgantown native has already imagined it – and patented it.
George Bennett, who holds an industrial engineering degree from West Virginia University and a master’s and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon, developed a wellness program that includes an app that tracks nutrition in a one-of-a-kind way. Called Good Measures, it is the result of collaboration between Bennett and Stephany Shaheen, whose daughter Elle lives with Type 1 diabetes.
The sophisticated technology behind Good Measures gives a person customized meal and snack suggestions that address his daily nutritional needs, while taking into consideration his food preferences and food restrictions.
“As far as we know, there is no other app or technology available in the world that can do what the Good Measures app can do,” Bennett said.
Good Measures is different from popular apps that track food consumption and activity, he said.
Those apps compare data to standardized tables of nutrient needs according to age and gender developed by the National Academy of Medicine.
“Good Measures adjusts those table entries for medical conditions and medications that people take,” Bennett said.
If a user takes a medication that affects how her body absorbs calcium and she needs to eat more calcium than the standard recommended daily allowance to get enough, the app will track how close she is to meeting that daily goal and the goals for other nutrients as well.
For example, if the user needs to eat a high-calcium food to meet the goal, but cannot eat a high-fat food that would put her over her limit for that nutrient, the app suggests specific foods she could eat that she has indicated she likes.
“It’s impossible for a human being to figure out what to have for lunch that addresses the deficit without overwhelmingly exceeding the limits for other nutrients,” Bennett said. “If you have a calcium deficiency and you drink half cup of milk, you also impact 12 or 14 other nutrients, including saturated fat. Every time you eat a food, it impacts huge numbers of the 30 you might be tracking. It’s beyond human computational ability.”
More than an app, Good Measures is a wellness program that also gives users consultations by a registered dietitian.
Program users can get their questions answered days, nights and weekends via text, email and phone.
Currently, a year of Good Measures coaching costs self-paying users $199, after a 14-day free trial.
Some health insurance plans will cover the subscription cost.
“It is a clinically robust, insurance-reimbursable service and many of the insurance plans in West Virginia will pay for it,” Bennett said.
The tool is already at work in parts of the state trying to help with a number of nutrition-sensitive medical conditions such as diabetes, renal disease, celiac disease, heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis and more.
Good Measures has partnered with the Healthy Harrison organization that works improve health outcomes and the WVU Eye Institute.
Dr. Ronald L. Gross, professor and the Jane McDermott Shott Chair of Ophthalmology at the WVU Eye Institute, said he and his colleagues have been using telemedicine to prevent vision loss by diagnosing diabetic eye disease — the leading cause of visual disability in working-aged Americans.
“But we needed a way to improve the health of the entire patient, not just the eyes, particularly those with diabetes,” Gross said. “We know that better control of the patients’ blood sugar decreases the risk of diabetes damage to the eye. By using Good Measures to effectively improve nutrition in our patients, the risk of developing eye disease is reduced; and in those with eye disease, their risk of damage to other systems — heart, brain, kidneys — can be improved.”
Nationally, Good Measures is collaborating with the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston and the American Diabetes Association.