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.