New necklace tracks eating patterns to help scientists understand, address bad habits

Northwestern University researchers have designed NeckSense, which detects when and how much the wearer eats. The data can then help dietitians put together action plans to stop overeating and stress eating.

SHARE New necklace tracks eating patterns to help scientists understand, address bad habits
NeckSense on a chain

Meet NeckSense, the new tool from researchers at Northwestern University that tracks eating patterns and helps dietitians understand a patient’s eating habits.

Northwestern University

Few people want to admit to their doctors how many drinks they have per week, how often they exercise or how much water they drink every day, but now technology could make those little white lies even harder to maintain.

The wearable tech in question is called NeckSense, a sensory necklace engineered by researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine that’s designed to help people overcome bad eating habits and understand what drives them to the cookie jar in the first place.

NeckSense uses sensors to detect motion, such as biting and chewing, and records what and how much food is eaten, according to a statement from the university. The necklace includes a tiny camera, which researchers plan to remove eventually, which validates the data from the sensors.

The findings can help the wearer, with or without the aid of a doctor or dietitian, to better understand what triggers binging or stress eating and devise a plan to combat unhealthy behaviors.

“The ability to easily record dietary intake patterns allows dieticians [sic] — or even laypeople making use of our tech — to deliver timely digital interventions that occur as eating is happening to prevent overeating,” lead study author Nabil Alshurafa, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a university statement.

The purpose of NeckSense is not to evoke shame in its wearers, but to better understand the root causes of certain eating habits, its creators say. By tracking the wearer’s heart rate, for example, NeckSense can help users identify when they’re stress eating.

Now that the initial study has concluded, Alshurafa and his research team plan to tweak the necklace’s design to make it more fashionable and then begin testing the necklace’s ability to assist in real-time interventions, the statement said.

“What I envision is a future in which someone comes into a dietician’s [sic] or physician’s office, then gets these sensors,” he said. “We determine their problems and design a customized intervention based on real data. Now we can really tell what their problem is, and our solution istailored to them and their needs.”

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