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Bite-counting device could help dieters monitor their eating

People trying to stick to a dietary regime could benefit from a new wrist-worn device that tracks the number of bites taken during meals.

The device, which the researchers refer to as ‘a pedometer for eating’, uses a simple gyroscope set-up to register wrist-roll motions, making it easier for people to monitor how much they eat over the long term.

It is a collaborative development between psychology professor Eric Muth and electrical and computer engineering professor Adam Hoover, both at Clemson University in the US.

‘At the societal level, current weight-loss and maintenance programmes are failing to make a significant impact,’ said Muth. ‘Studies have shown that people tend to underestimate what they eat by large margins, mostly because traditional methods rely upon self-observation and reporting.’

The Bite Counter requires the user to press a button to turn it on before eating and to press the button again after the meal or snack is finished. In between, the device automatically counts how many bites have been taken.

The advantage of the device, according to the researchers, is that it is automated so that user bias is removed. The device can be used anywhere, such as at restaurants or while working, where people find it difficult to manually track and remember calories.

In laboratory studies, the device has been shown to be more than 90 per cent accurate in counting bites, regardless of the user, food, utensil or container. Preliminary data suggest that bite count can be used as a proxy for caloric count.

With prototypes completed and manufacturing under way, devices are being tested by 20 subjects for one month. The devices will store logs of bite-count activities, which will provide researchers with baseline data for developing guidelines for completely new and innovative weight-loss studies.

Clemson professors Eric Muth and Adam Hoover created a device that may help people re-think their food choices, and how much of it they're willing to consume

Readers' comments (3)

  • Does it also come with an advisory of how much to eat what? 20 bites of salad does not equal 20 bites of chocolate... And what about drinking?

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  • The key point to note here is "Preliminary data suggest that bite count can be used as a proxy for caloric count." The idea behind the device is that it measures a correlation with calorie intake - that volume of food is a strong factor in calculating calories. How good a measure that is has yet to be seen and the real proof will be in whether reducing bite count leads to weight loss.

  • What the device needs is a built-in limit alarm which goes off if you reach your bite limit, or better still, gives a mild electric shock to stop you eating any more!

    Anyway, what if you use both hands for eating?

    Another use could be in buffet restaurants where customers could be charged only for the food they eat.

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  • What this device needs is....a wireless link up to a dieting APP on a mobile device that works in synch with a pedometer and dietary information inputted by the user. Could be a winner?

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