Satish Misra, MD reviewed & contributed to this article

IBM Watson Health has joined forces with Nutrino, a company that offers nutrition information, to provide pregnant women with much needed advice on how to meet their dietary needs. The partnership has resulted in a Nutrino app that taps the supercomputer’s natural language engine to analyze users’ questions and personal data to deliver more individualized answers to their questions.

On top of all of the other challenges of pregnancy, figuring out what to eat can be particularly vexing. Not only do expectant mothers need more of everything, there are numerous foods that they have to avoid. Layered on that are all sorts of baseline preferences, like being vegetarian or lactose intolerant. While there are several apps and websites that offer advice, any mother can attest to the conflicting information out there.

Nutrino has compiled a wealth of nutrition information on 500,000+ foods and 100,000 references with nutrition recommendations. The new Nutrino app will leverage Watson to offer personalized answers to nutrition questions.

According to IBM,

When a woman registers for the Nutrino App, she opts to input her pregnancy status, individual health goals, dietary needs, food preferences, eating habits, and data collected automatically such as wearable device data on exercise, sleep and stress. She can then choose from a list of common nutrition questions specific to different stages of pregnancy…

If, for example, a woman chooses a question like “What should I eat to help with heartburn in my third semester?” from the app’s long list of common nutrition questions, the app will draw on IBM’s analysis of the data stored on the Nutrino platform, taking into account the individual’s self-reported information.

The Nutrino app can also help users plan their meals, taking into consideration the individual’s health goals, taste, health and lifestyle. Nutrino’s database is designed to not only answer users’ nutrition related questions but to help them determine how reliable each data source is and to evaluate the evidence behind nutritional recommendations. The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Nutrino’s nutrition app joins thousands of diet and nutrition apps now available to the public. Offering patients advice on how to choose one that is evidence-based can be challenging, which is why organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offer app reviews to help separate fact from fiction.

For clinicians to embrace an app like Nutrino, though, some sort of validation will be important. Whether that is simply objectively demonstrating the accuracy of responses to common questions or a comparison of the answers Nutrino provides against other sources, it will be important that clinicians have some evidence that the product they recommend to their patients will actually serve them well.

In the past we have reviewed pregnancy apps, and came up with a list of the best contraction timing apps.