Waist Watchers: Ear-worn Diet Tracker

Waist Watchers: Ear-worn Diet Tracker

When it comes to dieting, one of the hardest parts is keeping track of everything you eat or drink during the day.

Now, no more lying to your diary or yourself. Cutting edge technology could change the way we diet in the future.

There are wearable fitness trackers that automatically monitor your physical activity, apps that scan barcodes on your food and tell you the nutritional breakdown, and diet plan apps for all the big weight loss companies.

But one biomedical engineer at the University of Alabama says all of those devices are still missing the mark.

Dr. Edward Sazonov says, "There are barely any good devices that will automatically measure your food intake, because all of them rely on some kind of self reporting, whether it's a diary or you taking pictures of your food. It's all manual, the person has to do it."

To eliminate the error that comes with self-reporting, researchers headed by Dr. Sazonov are working on a device that will automatically quantify what you eat or drink.

It's a blue-tooth headset that fits over your ear and right now it only exists as a 3-D printed prototype.

But here's how it works: It has a small sensor that attaches to the skin below the jaw and monitors jaw motion, specifically chewing.

The automatic ingestion monitor also photographs everything you eat and drink.

"We will be grabbing pictures of the food through this tiny wearable camera. And once we have the pictures, we'll know what people are eating, how much they are eating, what is the caloric intake, and eventually we'll be able to provide real-time feedback aimed at someone's caloric intake and shifting the energy balance toward weight-loss and maintenance, " Sazonov says.

Early testing also shows it's smart enough to filter out talking, so you won't throw it off by talking in between bites.

Dr. Sazonov and his team just received a $1.8 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate the diet tracker's practical application.

As a consumer device, it would eliminate the need for you to keep a record of your diet.

From a research standpoint, it could help doctors develop new strategies by better understanding patterns of food intake associated with obesity and eating disorders.

"Are you prone to snacking? Do you snack a lot? Are you eating big meals? Are you eating fast enough?" says Sazonov. "No other device does it, and our device will be able to give this picture."

Another wearable device of the future... aimed at helping you watch your waist.

As far as clinical applications go, all clinical devices have to be vigorously validated by the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers say they'll be putting the Automatic Ingestion Monitor through stringent testing over the next few years.

Dr. Sazonov says the consumer version of the device will likely be available sooner than the medical version.

Copyright 2014 WVUE. All rights reserved.