An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Over a billion people use the iPhone to manage their daily life and work. Millions are tracking their caloric output with the apple watch. What about the caloric input?
If Apple is taking on healthcare, could they tackle nutrition too?
Although there’s no clear path, I wanted to outline a few areas that you might expect Apple to look into.
Is Obesity a disease?
Tim Cook has predicted a surprising legacy: “(Apple’s) greatest contribution to mankind will be in health.”
Healthcare is a large, expensive and inefficient industry. There’s no shortage of problems that Apple could tackle, including one big one, obesity.
In the U.S., more than 70% of adults aged 20 and older are overweight, and nearly 40% in that same age group are obese. *
Shockingly, obese children will soon outnumber the underweight for the first time. *
Since the pandemic, things have gotten worse. In Ireland, people “drink more, smoke more, have gained weight or reported a worsening of their mental health in the past 12 months”. People with obesity are 113% higher chance of being hospitalized by COVID.
The problem(s) with weight loss
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” is decent advice but the reality is a stew of emotion, diet, genetics, money and social environments.
Historically, software that helps you to eat healthier (and lose weight), has done so by facilitating calorie tracking. Calories in, calories out.
But, it’s 2022, and calorie tracking is old hat. Although it’s effective, it’s very manual – and users lose interest. Apple recently tested a pilot app called HealthHabit but it has ‘struggled with low engagement’.
Finally, when it comes down to suggesting what you should eat, diet research has always been tough to evaluate and overall the science has had it rough, potentially opening Apple up to unnecessary controversies.
A medical device on your wrist
You can’t talk about Apple and health without talking about the watch.
Released in 2015, the Apple Watch has been successful ($13B+ in sales), accurate and useful (blood oxygen, body temperature, balance).
Blood sugar, currently missing from the watch’s repertoire could be game changer. Imagine an alert that shows you clearly what, when and how your body is impacted by that second donut at 11am.
This is bigger than weight loss too. Measuring blood glucose levels is vital to managing conditions such as diabetes, but it’s a pain (literally).
A redditor describes his current struggle: “I have 4 apps… 2 that log glucose, insulin and carbs and print different reports for my doctor, a medication logger with reminders, and a BP and weight tracker.”
It’s a seriously hard technical problem but it’s not impossible. Many new nutrition/health startups are looking past calories to genomic, microbial and metabolic data markers.
Lastly, there’s a few other ways nutrition could seep into the Apple ecosystem.
Apple is a services company, with an increasing share of their revenue stemming from people paying a little money every month to be “entertained, informed, connected, and inspired”. It’s easy enough to imagine an extension of fitness+ to include cooking classes or daily lessons to be more mindful about eating. Meals could be recommended based on your fatigue, and timing after different types of workouts (protein heavy recipes, rehydration after a long run).
The best calorie counting apps already rely on ‘less manual’ input methods like using the camera to scan labels and barcodes or voice to quickly log food. Apple is getting really good at recognizing and learning from these inputs. Again, Apple isn’t alone here. Snap lets users “parse and understand foods and ingredients you have right in front of you” with Google and Amazon not far behind.
Apple will continue spiking into health and don’t be surprised if food & nutrition find their way into the product. Blood sugar is a great example where Apple could make a huge impact in the food/nutrition space - all with something that happens with their device, quietly in the background.