New York City-based FoodMarble officially launched its FoodMarble AIRE device last week. The device allows individuals to test hydrogen levels in their breath, a method that can be used to identify foods they have trouble digesting.
“Everyone knows some things you shouldn’t be eating; You don’t eat a bowl of M&Ms for lunch,” Dr. James Brief, a gastroenterologist and FoodMarble’s chief medical officer, told MobiHealthNews. “But other people are eating the ‘healthy’ food — vegetables and fruits and cheeses — and it’s causing a lot of digestive problems for them. And this has a lot to do with how they’re interacting with their body and also the bacteria that live in their colon. For the last 20 years or so, gastroenterologists everywhere have been using breath-testing analysis and it’s well established that we can correlate the fermentation levels with the symptoms that people are having, so people can figure out what foods are causing them issues.”
When people have trouble digesting food, the food sits in the gut and begins to ferment, creating hydrogen gas that’s then present in the their breath. The AIRE can detect this hydrogen, then send the results to an app, which allows users to store tests, associate them with particular foods, and understand what the results mean.
The company has already sold 8,000 devices in pre-orders that it began accepting in April, bringing in more than $1 million. It’s now available via FoodMarble’s website for $159, a price which includes shipping.
The device does not require FDA premarket clearance, but the company is gathering efficacy data nonetheless. They’ve tested it against a gold standard device and submitted the test for publication.
What’s the impact
While a person doesn’t need a device to try different foods and see which ones provoke reactions, the device helps a lot in providing quantitative data that can help a user pinpoint the exact culprit of a bad reaction.
“There’s a lot of immediate food reactions that people have — you can eat something and 10 minutes later you can have issues,” Brief said. “But with a lot of other food intolerances, you have to wait until it gets to the bottom of the colon before it has problematic effects. You could eat something at noon and you’re not having a stomach ache until six. Then you have no idea if it’s the one o’clock food, the two o’clock coffee, or the three o’clock birthday cake. You have no idea what it is and you’re also probably going to blame the snack you ate at five.”
The device could help people with irritable bowel syndrome or anyone who suspects they have a food allergy or intolerance. The company intends to explore the clinical market but is focused in the short term on a direct-to-consumer business model.
“We want to achieve as much scale as possible on the direct-to-consumer product,” CEO Aonghus Shortt, who founded the company after seeing his girlfriend struggle with IBS, told MobiHealthNews. “We’ve been able to attract over a million dollars of pre-orders through our website. We’ve shipped out all those pre-orders. But if we’re able to generate that much in pre-orders, we think there’s a huge market of people that are having problems, that just want to have some certainty. So we think there’s a big D2C market.”
What’s the trend?
There’s a history in digital health of devices like Nima designed to help people with food allergies or intolerances avoid foods they know don’t agree with them. But using a device and a connected app to find those allergies and intolerances in the first place is new ground.