Pedometer for your mouth

One mouthful at a time: 100 hundred bites a day for weight-loss?

One mouthful at a time: 100 hundred bites a day for weight-loss?

Chewing our food is effective and free. Well, it used to be.

Soon, for about $210, you can pay to measure your bites.

For weight loss, about 100 bites of food a day is apparently the going rate. And a new device called the Bite Monitor will keep track of those numbers for you.

Worn like a watch around your wrist, it measures wrist-to-mouth motion and is described by the creators as a ''pedometer for your mouth''.

To arrive at the magic 100-bite number, researchers from Clemenson University tracked the diets of 77 people for two weeks, according to the study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They calculated the average kilojoule intake was about 71 for men and about 46 for women. It took therefore about 100 bites of food a day to achieve the target daily intake of 7100kj for men and 4600kj for women.

The Bite Monitor is about to be put to the test in a study by America's National Institutes of Health. If all goes according to plan, the device will be available for purchase next year.

''Our premise with the bite-count diet is we're trying to get you to push the plate away a little bit,'' Eric Muth, the device's co-creator, told The Wall Street Journal. ''You can do a lot with bites. It's very simple and people understand it.''

It all sounds a little like micromanagement of our mouths, but there's method in the madness, says Amanda Salis of the University of Sydney's Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders.

''I think it's great,'' she says. ''It's another tool to help people gain awareness of what and how they're eating ... People love gadgets. Pedometers really help to motivate people to become more active, for example.''

It is not foolproof, though. It cannot, for instance, measure whether you're ingesting a whole hamburger or a lettuce leaf in each bite.

''People could end up just taking huge bites,'' Professor Salis says. ''People will always find ways to eat when there are barriers put in front of them.''

Some dieters who had wires put on their jaws to prevent them from eating, Professor Sails says, would knock out their front teeth to get food in.

But she believes the positives outweigh the potential problems.

The device isn't the first to bring Fletcherism back.

A Swedish healthcare company is set to release a ''talking'' plate which tells you when you are eating too fast and asks you to track how full you are feeling.

''Our research shows that people who are at risk for food-related problems have a common issue; those individuals are unable to recognise either hunger or satiety,'' the company explains on its website.

''We use electronic aides to facilitate this relearning procedure that allowed these individuals to model their abnormal eating pattern to a normal pattern.''

There is already a $108 fork on the market which prompts you to ''slow down! Don't eat so fast!''

There is good reason to slow down and not eat so fast.

Chewing our food properly – the ''right'' number of times to chew varies from 10 to 40 plus, depending on who you ask – has many benefits.

It's good for our teeth, kick-starts digestive enzymes and makes digestion easier on our bodies, meaning we're less likely to feel bloated or gassy after our food.

We're also less likely to overeat and more likely to enjoy our food.

Thankfully, however, we don't need to pay for the privilege.

''Devices are always fun,'' Professor Salis says. ''But you don't actually need the device to get the awareness. Food diaries are simple and effective ... they will give you a huge dose of awareness. And they're free.''

Professor Salis and her team are seeking people living in the Sydney metropolitan area to participate in clinical weight loss trials aimed at reducing appetite while also increasing the efficiency of fat loss. For more information, email: boden.tempo@sydney.edu.au

SMH

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