A Project that Helps Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Obesity has become one of the most threating diseases in many industrialised countries. Too many people weigh too much, risking long-term consequences for their health. At the same time the number of people, especially young people, suffering from other eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa is increasing as well. To prevent obesity and other eating disorders in the first place, the EU-funded project SPLENDID was started in 2013. The coordinator of this European cooperation is Prof. Anastasios N. Delopoulos, who works at the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. The aim of this project is to provide users with personalised services that help young people develop healthy eating and activity behaviours and hence prevent the onset of obesity and eating disorders.
Measuring Eating Habits and Offering Personalised Feedback
The project SPLENDID has several specific aims that focus on the prevention of obesity and other eating disorders. First of all, the people working on the project develop and integrate technical tools to measure eating and exercising habits under real life circumstances. In order to assess the potential risk of becoming obese, specific algorithms based on the user’s eating and physical activity habits are necessary. Furthermore, the project offers a platform that provides users with already existing health professional practices. To guarantee a positive outcome for the user, constructive feedback is essential. Therefore, SPLENDID develops a user-friendly system that supports users with real-time feedback based on their personalised goals. The objective of this feedback is the normalisation of the user’s eating and exercise habits.
Personal Scales, a Tracking Device and Chewing Sensors as the Key
Besides the platform, the algorithms and the personalised feedback, several technical devices are used to help users develop healthy habits. The Mandometer® developed by Mando Group AB is one of these devices. It is a personal scale connected to the user’s smartphone. It shows the progression of a meal and provides the user with instructions on how to control the size of their meals and hence normalise their food intake. The effectiveness of the Mandometer® has been proven in clinical tests, obese and underweight patients have managed reach normal weight after using the scale for a longer period of time. In the SPLENDID project, this scale is used to notify users of the potential risk for developing an eating disorder. Moreover, the Mandometer® is part of the platform which helps users develop healthy eating habits.
Whereas the Mandometer® focuses on a person’s eating habits, another technical device, the Accelerometer, tracks physical activities. Additionally, these devices often provide the user with feedback to keep them motivated when working out. As explained on the projects website, “the accelerometers will be used to capture acceleration in all three axes of space, creating a 3D representation of how a person moves. Based on the accelerometer data, the overall physical activity of a person across a day will be calculated.” This data will then be used to determine whether a person is at risk of becoming overweight.
The third device used in SPLENDID is the chewing sensor. This sensor has been developed for this project and collects data about the user’s chewing patterns. It is non-invasive and records sounds or other information concerning areas of the jaw and throat while chewing.
“Through the quantification of chewing the system will also be able to automatically detect snacking across the day. This information will be considered in the algorithms used to calculate the risk for developing obesity or an eating disorder.”