Health & Fitness
Scan your food, manage your health
Astrid Bonnasses have developed an app which helps to balance a person’s food intake. The device is called DietSensor. It is composed of two parts, a scanner/sensor and an app. It has only been recently introduced and there are still some problems with it, however, it can prove to be the future of diets for those with a medical condition.
There are a lot of people who need to be careful of the food they eat. These include diabetics, or those with hypertension and with heart conditions. These people require that they know what they are eating and how much as well. For the most part, it is less about calories per se, but the percentage of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
Seeing a dietician is the best way to set a diet. However, when eating out, a diet is usually not followed because people don’t know what is in the food being served. A special case can be made for diabetics who have to watch their food intake because they might have problems if they take in too much, or too little, sugar, or carbohydrates.
This was the concern Remy and Astrid Bonnasse had when their then 9-year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2014. Formerly known as juvenile diabetes, this is a type of diabetes where the body does not produce enough insulin. Without adequate insulin, the glucose in the blood does not get to the cells of the body.
The DietSensor is an innovative piece of electronics. It is based on a near-infrared spectroscopy of food, and it analyses the main elements in an easy to understand app. This was designed for use for diabetics, but it can easily be modified for use for other medical conditions.
There are advantages to using the DietSensor. First off, since the database is on the cloud, it can keep on growing without any need of updates to the app. In the same manner, the database itself grows everytime a new material is scanned. In one report, it states that the database contains more than 600,000 materials from all over the world. The app itself supports 19 languages, so there is no reason not to use it wherever you may be.
• Small and portable
• Data can also be entered manually
• Not all food are in database
• Only works with homogenous food
Another advantage is that the user can be more strict with his dietary intake. Knowing the composition of the food helps a lot with diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases. It is no stretch to say that at some point it might be used by anyone with a medical condition which can be triggered by food. This may include food allergies as well as gout, rheumatism and arthritis.
The scanner is very handy, and with some tweaking it should be able to scan other materials and find out its components. That however, is out of scope of DietSensor.
What Consumer Physics is saying is that as long as you don’t mind scanning every food you eat, wherever you eat, then you can use the device. For those who really need to watch their diets, the device would soon be used in fancy restaurants as well as in picnics, and by guests at dinner.
As of now, there is one big limitation. The food material has to be homogenous. That means that if you have ramen in front of you, you would have to separately scan the noodles, egg, squid, soup, seafood, seaweed, and other ingredients. Scanning the ingredients one at a time, and then estimating the individual weight would be too much. However, until the app can differentiate the different ingredients, then that would be the only feasible solution to know what you are eating.
Another hurdle would be the price. The SCiO scanner is priced at around $250 for pre-order. The app is free, but it requires a monthly subscription to the database of $10 per month.
At the heart of the DietSensor is a near-infrared scanner called SCiO. It analyses food components by sending near-infrared radiation and reads back how the material reacts to heat. The readings are sent to an app which polls a cloud-based database of materials.
Near infrared spectroscopy is a method of determining elements and materials based on how these react to “heat”. The SCiO reads how the food molecules vibrate. The science is not much different from the way the components of planets and stars are determined by the amount and wavelength of radiation they send out. There are a lot of uses of spectroscopy, including determining food and materials from crime scenes. The difference with those machines and DietSensor is that the SCiO is a handheld device no bigger than the size of the palm. Another important difference is that it can only determine the composition of homogenous materials. That means that a steak can be scanned successfully, but it won’t work with soup.
The food analysis is done with the help of the SCiO which detects the major components of food. An app takes the components and tells the user how much he can eat of that particular food. Alternatively, if the user knows how much food he has eaten, he is informed of how much calories it contains.
Most of the information is pulled from an online database. Using the device on new materials adds these materials to the database, making it grow and become more useful in the process.
The idea is sound, and the technology is a big leap in miniaturization. Earlier spectroscopic scanners are much larger. The potential is there, and it bodes well for future uses. However, there is still a lot of math and information that a user needs in order to make an educated decision about the food on the table. Admittedly, for some diabetics, this is worth it. It can be the difference between life and death.
For early adopters, it can be a steep investment. The device costs $250, with a $10 monthly subscription.