EU-funded obesity prevention study uses sensors to slow down speedy eaters

By Brian Dolan

Mandometer2Researchers at a university in Greece are coordinating a European Union funded project, called Splendid, that leverages sensors to record the eating habits and activity levels of children and young adults to nudge them into making healthier decisions. The study is aimed at curbing the obesity epidemic and initially includes 200 high school aged students in Sweden. Another group in Netherlands will participate in the near future, according to a report from the BBC.

Typically, weight loss programs require participants to recall what they ate the previous day or week as well as how long they exercised. The Splendid project is making use of a number of sensor-enabled devices to track eating habits instead.

One of the devices in the study is Swedish firm AB Mando's Mandometer, a smartphone-connected weight scale that users put their plate on while they eat. The rate at which food is removed from the plate is recorded and users are giving audio cues if the program detects that the child is eating too quickly. Speedy eating can make it difficult to know when you are full.

A Swiss firm called CSEM is developing the other two devices that Splendid uses: a wearable sensor that displays a smiley face after the wearer exercises and an acoustic sensor that listens for the user's chewing.

"A key advantage of the new system will be the provision of instant and personalised feedback," the European Commission stated in a press release. "The high-tech sensors will deliver real-time data to smartphone and web-based interfaces, highlighting risk behaviours and helping users to change their daily habits and lifestyle. By doing so, the Splendid project hopes to communicate directly to young people most at risk from developing obesity and prevent the onset of serious health-related problems."