Monitoring, Modelling, and Modifying Dietary Habits and Nutrition Based on Large-Scale Digital Traces

Date 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2021
Type Machine Learning, Health

Partner: Microsoft
Partner contact: Ryen W. White
EPFL laboratory: Data Science Lab
EPFL contact: Prof. Robert West, Kristina Gligoric

The overall goal of this project is to develop methods for monitoring, modeling, and modifying dietary habits and nutrition based on large-scale digital traces. We will leverage data from both EPFL and Microsoft, to shed light on dietary habits from different angles and at different scales: Our team has access to logs of food purchases made on the EPFL campus with the badges carried by all EPFL members. Via the Microsoft collaborators involved, we have access to Web usage logs from IE/Edge and Bing, and via MSR’s subscription to the Twitter firehose, we gain full access to a major social media platform. Our agenda broadly decomposes into three sets of research questions: (1) Monitoring and modeling: How to mine digital traces for spatiotemporal variation of dietary habits? What nutritional patterns emerge? And how do they relate to, and expand, the current state of research in nutrition? (2) Quantifying and correcting biases: The log data does not directly capture food consumption, but provides indirect proxies; these are likely to be affected by data biases, and correcting for those biases will be an integral part of this project. (3) Modifying dietary habits: Our lab is co-organizing an annual EPFL-wide event called the Act4Change challenge, whose goal is to foster healthy and sustainable habits on the EPFL campus. Our close involvement with Act4Change will allow us to validate our methods and findings on the ground via surveys and A/B tests. Applications of our work will include new methods for conducting population nutrition monitoring, recommending better-personalized eating practices, optimizing food offerings, and minimizing food waste.