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Device offers diet tracking

Matthew Wood

Dr. Edward Sazonov, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, demonstrates sensor technology in a lab at The University of Alabama. UA News

Lauren Lane

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This device detects food intake through attachment to the jaw and is more accurate than personal record keeping of one’s diet. The sensor is 
currently in the process of being developed into a Bluetooth
 headset with a camera that can take images of the food eaten. From there, dietitians can review the images and detect exact portion sizes of each food eaten 
by their patients.

“There are well-known studies out that have huge errors in what well-qualified dietitians have tracked calorie-wise for their patients compared to the actual calories their patients have eaten,” 
Sazonov said.

He said it is even difficult for professionals to accurately gauge the amount of calories consumed by an individual with complete accuracy. This device tracks food all users eat without their effort and leaves less room for error or dishonesty. Eventually, the goal will be to have all the data analyzed by a computer instead of a 
health professional.

Sazonov said he was inspired to create the device in 2004 when he attended a session at a conference called “Bioengineering Approaches to Obesity.” The seminar was 
promoted by the National 
Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, which provided grant funding for the development of 
the device.

“I envision that a device like this will truly help people maintain healthy weights,” 
Sazonov said.

He said the ultimate goal in developing the device is to have the closest thing to true feedback possible and help people who are 
struggling with their weight, whether they are obese or have an eating disorder, need to 
moderate their intake, figure out their eating patterns or get help to eat healthy without
 food anxiety.

Either next summer or fall 2015, Sazonov will conduct a study at The University of Alabama where he and his team will observe students at an all-you-can-eat buffet at Lakeside Dining and then compare their own records with the tracking sensor’s records. They are also conducting a community study in Atlanta, where a group of people will be given the device for everyday use.

“There are several devices out there for the public with claims that they accurately track your energy input and output, but hopefully this will be on the market one day for 
consumers to have a more exact way to track their 
diet,” Sazonov said.

He said they are also working with tracking physical activity to gauge energy input and output. The device is different 
from other diet trackers like FitBit because it actually tracks what users eat.

Kiley Kay White, a junior majoring in nutrition, said she is excited about this product and would love to see it available on the market.

“I would definitely use this device because I would much rather depend on an accurate sensor to keep track of my food intake than have to remember and measure everything out each time I eat,” White said. “It is also helpful for people that eat out a lot because you are not sure all the ingredients that go into what you are being served and can’t accurately record your intake.”

However, some students said they are worried about the public’s response to the earpiece.

“I think the earpiece would be a great way to track what and how much people are consuming,” said Katie Parrot, a junior majoring in nutrition. “I don’t think that it would be very ideal for a college student because of the 
noticeability and inconvenience of the ear piece judging by the blueprint. However, I do think that it is a great advancement in 
technology with finding a more accurate way of tracking 
someone’s caloric intake.”

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Device offers diet tracking