Is this the next diet gizmo? Bracelet counts how many mouthfuls you've had

By Colin Fernandez

"Bite-count feedback is a way to keep people mindful of their eating behaviours." Photo / iStock
"Bite-count feedback is a way to keep people mindful of their eating behaviours." Photo / iStock

Of all the technical gizmos that have been created in recent years to help keep us healthy, this one may just take the biscuit.

A 'bite-ometer' has been launched that measures how many mouthfuls of food you take while eating.

It is worn like a watch and tracks a distinctive wrist motion made whenever a bite is taken.
The gadget monitors consumption in real-time and provides feedback telling the user to slow down or stop if they appear to be over-indulging.

In trials participants ate less when fitted with the device and scientists claim using one stops the wearer from gorging and snacking excessively.

By forcing us to pause and think, it is supposed to discourage users from reaching for that extra round of toast, packet of crisps or sausage from the barbecue.

The bite-ometer follows on from other wearable technologies which were invented to measure aspects of our daily routine.

Pedometers were created to count how many steps you take a day. And more recently, the FitBit has been worn by health-conscious individuals to help track everything from sleep patterns to how many calories you have eaten.

The study of the new bite counter, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that people who received the information reduced their overall intake during a meal.

However, the research also found that if the target number of bites was set very low, participants began to take bigger bites to avoid having to reduce their food intake too drastically.

Psychologist Phillip Jasper, a PhD student at Clemson University in South Carolina, said: "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."

But the bite-ometer did not eliminate "environmental" cues that make us eat more, he said. Individuals may eat less when they receive bite-count feedback but feedback alone may not be sufficient in terms of helping users take an "appropriate" or "normal" number of bites - particularly in the presence of large plates. Larger plates have been found to encourage people to eat more.

In a second experiment one group was only allowed 12 bites of a meal while another group was allowed 22 bites.

The low bite-count participants took bigger mouthfuls which resulted in both groups having comparable levels of consumption.

Mr Jasper said: "It's possible this compensatory behaviour is intentional - a reaction to a perceived limitation such that participants believed 12 bites to be too restricting of a goal.

"In other words 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."

The researchers suggest helping patients establish a baseline level of bites across all meals plus snacks before setting any bite number goals. They can then be set goals slightly below their average, helping them to reduce intake through fewer bites without feeling they must over-compensate.

Mr Jasper said: "It's possible to reduce the number of bites in an appropriate way so individuals don't even know they're reducing their bites and their caloric intake."

He added that bite-count feedback was an excellent weapon against the so-called "mindless margin" - the amount people eat without really thinking about it.

Mr Jasper said: "We want people to be mindful of what they're doing. That's what's really important.

"Bite-count feedback is a way to keep people mindful of their eating behaviours."

- Daily Mail

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