Developing tailored dietary advice for people with MS

Dr Vivienne Guan

University of Wollongong, NSW

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Fellowship | 2021 | Investigator Led Research |


Although there currently are no conclusive dietary guidelines for people living with MS that delay or prevent disease progression, there is great demand from the MS community for easily accessible information to help with healthy food choices. Previous research has shown that people living with MS embrace support and advice to self-manage MS and improve their quality of life, and dietary advice is often sought as part of planning a wellness strategy. Additionally, symptoms of MS such as cognitive issues, depression, fatigue and pain can play havoc with day-to-day life, affecting food choices and the effort required to prepare food, possibly leading to suboptimal nutrition. 

The aim of Dr Guan’s research is to develop and evaluate a mobile phone app to support people living with MS to self-manage food choices in line with current Australian dietary guidelines. For people living with MS, this may relieve some of the cognitive stress associated with planning and co-ordinating food choices on a daily basis.  

Utilising the background of her extensive experience in information technology, Dr Guan plans to co-develop the app with practicing dietitians, people living with MS and academics in Computer Science and Information Technology to reflect the current needs of the MS community, whilst being user-friendly and readily available. It is anticipated that this community engagement will lead to an app which promotes self-management, reduces stress and improves the quality of life for those living with MS. 

Progress to Date

Dr. Guan has been actively conducting research on the use of mobile applications to provide tailored dietary advice for individuals living with MS. She began by conducting in-depth interviews with people living with MS to understand their needs, barriers, and facilitators when it comes to using mobile applications for dietary guidance. Additionally, she is exploring design preferences for the mobile application through interviews and a national online survey. 

In parallel, Dr. Guan has initiated several research projects and five final year students in Computer Science are working on developing a mobile application based on Dr. Guan's research findings. 

In 2022, Dr. Guan published a scoping review that explored the design characteristics of mobile apps used for adults living with MS in academic settings. The review revealed that no existing app was specifically designed to provide dietary advice for people with MS. The findings of the review have guided the development of the app for this project. The current version of the app includes features such as image-based dietary assessment, food choice tracking with immediate feedback using gamification principles, personalised goal setting for food choices, and the provision of recipe ideas and information on the Australian Dietary Guidelines.  

A systematic literature review is being conducted to explore the impact of diet on fatigue in adults with MS. Furthermore, Dr. Guan and her team have developed a state-of-the-art machine learning model for image-to-recipe retrieval. Their model has demonstrated superior performance in image-to-recipe retrieval tasks compared to existing approaches. 

Dr. Guan has successfully formed a multidisciplinary research team consisting of experts in Computer Science, Information Technology, and Dietetics. This diverse team includes researchers at various stages of their careers, including early career researchers and senior researchers.  

To support her research, Dr. Guan secured an MS Australia Incubator Grant in 2022, allowing her to incorporate artificial intelligence into the mobile application. Additionally, she received the Young Investigator Award for 2021-2022 from the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, which provides funding for the project's delivery and dissemination. 


  • Probst Y., Guan V., Van Der Walt A., Rath L.M., Bonney A., Kent J.. Patient self-management and empowerment for multiple sclerosis: The implications of dietary lifestyle management for primary care, Aust J Gen Pract. 2022 Apr;51(4):209-212Top of Form 

Updated: 31 March 2023

Updated: 19 January, 2021

Stages of the research process

Fundamental laboratory

Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 10+ years

Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.

Lab to clinic timeline: 5+ years
Clinical Studies
and Clinical Trials

Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 1-5 years


Grant Awarded

  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Total Funding

  • $165,000


  • 3 years

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Developing tailored dietary advice for people with MS