Taking a bite out of calorie-counting: New app helps users lose weight

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The study found that food served on a larger plate led to a greater number of bites and therefore more food was consumed. (© iStock.com)
The study found that food served on a larger plate led to a greater number of bites and therefore more food was consumed. (© iStock.com)

Related tags: Food

Wearable technology that provides feedback on meal behaviour could help people lose weight as research has revealed the effectiveness of a new interactive tool in monitoring food intake.

Researchers from Clemson University in Philadelphia, US found that the device users were able to keep track of the number of bites during a meal. These users also ate less and reduced their overall intake during a meal.

The innovation aims to provide users with an alternative way of measuring how much they've had to eat or drink. Current methods such as calorie counting are considered inaccurate and time consuming.

The series of experiments used intake monitoring technology to help an individual avoid the ‘mindless margin.’ This refers to the influence of various environment cues (portion size, serving dish size, plate size and social interaction) that can lead to overeating without the subject noticing. 

In the first experiment, food served on a larger plate led to a greater number of bites and therefore more food was consumed. Those that received feedback consumed less and took fewer bites.

In the second experiment, subjects were given either a low-bite goal or a high-bite goal for their meal.  Findings revealed that those eating from a large plate consumed more but did not take more bites.

Those that were given a low goal on the number of bites taken took fewer bites but did not consume less.

"It was found that the presence of bite count feedback led to a reduction in overall consumption. This finding is consistent with current literature that shows feedback on consumption leads people to consume less,"​ said Phillip Jasper, study researcher at Clemson University.

"It was found that this type of feedback does not eliminate the effect of environment cues such as plate size. Individuals may eat less when they receive bite count feedback, but feedback alone may not be sufficient in terms of helping them to take an 'appropriate' or 'normal' number of bites, particularly in the presence of large plates."

Study particulars

Clemson University
A subject is outfitted with a wearable bite count feedback device.(© Clemson University)

In the first study, 62 women aged around 19 years made up a total of 94 subjects, who were given lunch in a laboratory setting. The second study examined 99 subjects of which 56 were women. These subjects were aged 18.5 years and were given a lunch meal under the same conditions.

In both studies subjects consumed their lunch, which was served on a small or large plate. In the first study participants either wore an automated bite counting device or did not.

In the second study, subjects who wore the bite counting device were given either a low bite count goal (12 bites) or a high bite count goal (22 bites).

“In an effort to reach satiety while not surpassing the given goal, participants felt as though they needed to take larger bites than they typically would,"​ explained Jasper.

"By giving people bite count feedback, which is a good indicator for energy intake, they know how much they've had to eat or drink, they know their intake so they can better adjust their energy expenditure behaviours."

Novel technology

New approaches to help people lose weight by providing them with external indicators of their energy intake have proved popular over the last few years.

chocolate portion control - Dejan_Dundjerski
Portion size is one of the environmental cues that characterise the 'mindless margin.'(© Dejan_Dundjerski)

The Swedish-based company AB Mando, has made available its product the Mandometer, a portable scale connected to a computer that generates a real-time graph of weight representing food removal from a plate.

It can help individuals control their eating rate by providing feedback relative to a goal rate, represented by a line on the computer monitor.

In a similar vein, HapiLabs have created the HapiFork, an eating tool that measures duration of eating, eating rate, and the number of bites an individual takes. It is based on an electric circuit that is closed when the fork is inserted into the mouth.

Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1016/j.jand.2016.05.004

“Effects of Bite Count Feedback from a Wearable Device and Goal Setting on Consumption in Young Adults.”

Authors: Eric Muth et al.

Related topics: Science, Diet and health, Reformulation

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