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University Profs. Develop, Commercialize Food-Bite Counter

Bite counter (Clemson University)

Bite counter, in foreground (Clemson University)

Two Clemson University faculty members have developed a device worn on the wrist that can help people monitor the amounts of food they consume. Psychology professor Eric Muth and engineering professor Adam Hoover have also started a company to take their patent-pending device to market.

The Bite Counter, as Muth and Hoover call their device, is worn on the wrist like a watch and designed to make it easier for the wearers to monitor how much they eat. The device device tracks a pattern of wrist-roll motions to identify when the wearer has taken a bite of food, but without intervention by the wearer, using the same principle of a pedometer measuring the distance walked or run.

The advantage of the Bite Counter 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. It also offers a time-stamped log of meal data that can be downloaded for analysis.

“Studies have shown that people tend to underestimate what they eat by large margins, mostly because traditional methods rely upon self–observation and reporting,” says Muth. “Our preliminary data suggest that bite count can be used as a proxy for caloric count.”

Muth and Hoover’s data come from lab studies that show the device to be more than 90 percent accurate in counting bites, regardless of the user, food, utensil, or container. There are few existing data on how bite count relates to calorie count or how a bite-counting device could be used for weight loss. The device, however, will allow for such data to be more easily collected.

The Clemson inventors have taken the first steps to commercialize their technology. A patent is pending for the Bite Counter. They have also founded Bite Technologies, a start-up company that licensed the technology from the university.

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

Read more: Virtual Reality Used to Study Food Addictions

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