You’ve heard of FitBit. What about Fit…Bite?
Okay, the name needs a little work. But researchers at Tufts University have created an as-yet-unchristened new wearable that attaches to your tooth, allowing the wearer to watch what they eat in a little more detail.
Obviously, most of us don’t need an app to tell us if we’re currently eating a footlong sandwich, but of course, this minuscule device is much smarter than that: it scans your food for its glucose, salt and alcohol content, then wirelessly transmits it to a mobile device. It’s a huge step forward in this field—an area which has previously been explored, but has always been hampered by the need for bulky mouthguard-style wearables. Its creators think it can be adapted to monitor food in even more detail, analysing food for a wide range of nutrients, chemicals and even the physiological states it induces.
Sounds great—where do we sign up? Well, it’s not widely available yet, or else you probably wouldn’t be hearing about it on an innovation blog. But its creators believe it could be manufactured for widespread use, meaning consumers could get a much clearer picture of what they really eat on a daily basis. Apart from being quietly terrifying, this could have huge ramifications on the convenience food industry, or lead to breakthroughs in how we treat and manage diet-sensitive illnesses like diabetes. It could open new commercial opportunities for weight-loss companies like Weightwatchers and for health-food manufacturers, and by pairing the device with a fitness tracker, it could even signal the beginning of a new age of health-consciousness, where kale smoothies are as popular worldwide as they are in the more fashionable cities, and fast food is increasingly heavily-taxed.
But even if we’re eating right, not everyone agrees such a device would make us healthy in every respect. Clinical psychologist Lara Pence, of the Renfrew Centre Eating Disorder Treatment Facility, told New Republic that the sense of guilt trackers promote when a user surpasses their calorie allotment is damaging, and a 2017 study found that fitness trackers are associated with eating disorder symptoms among college students.
Which is hardly surprising. Sometimes we just need a treat day, a little indulgence, without worrying about what we’re eating. As well as seizing new consumer opportunities and conveniences wherever possible, we have to be wary of tech that promises to manage the basic processes of life. After all, an app that promises to constantly watch what we eat could end up eating away at us.