Breathalyzer hooks up to smartphone, detects fat burn

The device measures acetone, a product of fatty acid breakdown. It hooks up to a smartphone and answers your (fat) burning questions in 10 seconds.
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor

For people trying to lose weight, scales and body mass indexes can’t always indicate if a new diet or workout is burning the desired amount of fat. They’re also not convenient measurements to take when you’re out, and turns out, those aren’t very good predictors of fat burn at all.

Now, researchers at NTT Docomo -- Japan’s largest mobile-phone provider -- are working on a smartphone-connected device that measures acetone in the breath as a sign of fat-burning. Technology Review reports.

People who’re burning fat exhale high levels of the gas acetone -- an end product in the break down of fatty acids. This gets released into the blood and through the lungs in breath.

The portable device uses two types of semiconductor-based gas sensors to measure acetone in breath. The device hooks up to a smartphone through a wire or Bluetooth and gives users an answer to their (fat) burning question in 10 seconds.

They tested the prototype in 17 overweight adults. Those who added exercise and reduced calorie intake lost body fat over two weeks -- and their concentration of breath acetone increased.

“A scale does not provide a very good prediction of how you are doing, and body-fat measurement is not that accurate,” said Samar Kundu of medical device maker Sword Diagnostics. He previously developed a similar device for Abbot Labs. They didn’t commercialize the invention, but his team demonstrated the correlation between the breath component and fat loss.

In addition to helping dieters adjust for maximizing weight loss, the palm-sized device could be useful for diabetics -- who have much higher breath-acetone concentrations. Their cells can’t take up glucose from blood, and burning fat for energy causes the telltale fruity breath odor.

The work was published in Journal of Breath Research in July.

[Technology Review]

Image: Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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