Do you really want to know?

A prototype from GE measures calories in blended foods like the mixture shown here. The technology is about to graduate to solid foods. Credit: GE

We are getting more and more health conscious, as more and more science understand metabolisms we are being told not to eat (too much of) this, to eat that, some of us are getting paranoid about what they eat (not me actually).

We have seen information on calories and content in fat, protein... being associated with food packages and apps have mushroomed to calculate the amount of calories one should get based on that day activity and his health profile. Problem is that calculating the actual calories is quite tricky (you mix foods, dressing....) and the current method to calculate precisely the amount of calories in a plate requires a complex machinery and, much worse, results in the destruction of the food! You can know with high accuracy what you did not eat!

Now researchers at GE have invented a non destructive way to measure with good accuracy the amount of calories "on a plate". This is done by using microwaves, similar to the ones you have in your microwave oven, and actually they are looking to be able to place their system inside any oven: you place your plate there and you get a reading on the calories.

So far the system requires that the food is blended (not good at all!) but they are planning to increase the number of antennas emitting and receiving the microwaves so that the food can be "scanned" for calories information. According to their plan you will be placing a burrito with al the trimmings, refried beans and guacamole included, and your oven will tell you what is the "danger" you are facing ;-)

There are other researchers looking for easier ways to tell you the calories on your plate, including some trying to exploit the reflection of light (and the image) that can be captured by the digital camera on your cell phone and comparing it to a data base of pre-evaluated food. Not as precise as the GE approach but surely easier...

I guess this fits nicely with the goal of one of our action lines in the EIT ICT Labs, Health and Wellbeing trying to provide you with tools to keep you in shape and prevent risky situations.

I remain with the longing for the times where I was looking forward to relax and enjoy the food, and I did not know what calories are.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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