eHealth tools against overweight in children and pregnant women
Marie Löf’s research covers ways of improving health and reducing overweight and obesity in pregnant women and children. She develops apps that help individuals and families to make vital changes in their dietary and exercise habits.
What are you researching?
“My research aims to prevent disease and promote health during pregnancy and childhood by focusing on diet and physical activity. More than 10 per cent of four-year-olds in Sweden are overweight or obese, as are some 40 per cent of pregnant women here. Initially, I concentrated my research on risk factors for overweight and obesity. Today, health apps and other digital tools are the dominant topic of my research.”
When did you start developing apps?
“In 2007, before smart phones made it big. It was a totally different world back then. We were pretty much alone with this idea and faced a lot of challenges. Since then, the field has emerged very rapidly.
Apps are a fantastic way to reach people and a good complement to personal meetings with patients in maternity and child health care. An app allows healthcare professionals to stay in close contact with the patient, which is useful when it comes to something as major as changing your everyday behaviour. One advantage is that it’s easy to adapt apps to different situations, such as when patients speak another language.
We’ve found evidence that our apps are effective. Families that receive the app report a healthier diet and less screen time for their children. The parents also feel empowered in their parenting, which is important. Women with overweight or obesity who use our app gain less weight during pregnancy. The apps are also rated high for their intuitiveness, and we can see that they’re put to a lot of use.”
What else are you doing?
“Another important part of our research is an ongoing longitudinal study of diet, weight and physical activity in children from the womb to adolescence. The oldest participants are turning 15 this year. One interesting finding in this study is that maternal body fatness seems to be a stronger risk factor for high body fat content in daughters compared to sons during childhood. I’m also leading the Swedish arm of the SUNRISE study, in which researchers from over 30 countries are examining levels of physical activity, screen-time and health in three to five-year-olds.”
Text: Anders Nilsson, in translation from Swedish
First published in the booklet ‘From Cell to Society 2022’
About Marie Löf
Professor of Nutrition at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition
Marie Löf was born in Vimmerby in 1971. She studied nutrition at Stockholm University, graduating in 1997. She went on to earn her PhD at Linköping University in 2004, taking a postdoc position at KI from that same year until 2010. She has been leading a research group at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition since 2011 and was a researcher at Linköping University between 2007 and 2011. Löf was appointed docent in 2009 and obtained a professorship at Linköping University in 2018. She has also been appointed visiting professor at Deakin University, Australia, from 2019 to 2025 and leads a Forte/Swedish Research Council financed research programme on eHealth.
Marie Löf was appointed Professor of Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet on 1 February 2022.