High-Tech Devices Help Gauge Calories Burned
October 14, 2003
Three new, high-tech devices may help in the fight against obesity,
America's No. 1 nutrition problem. The instruments make it easier, faster, and
less expensive to determine how many calories a person burns during any given
Agricultural Research Service
physiologist Mary J. Kretsch at the agency's
Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, Calif., is leading a study of the
new instruments. She's determining their accuracy and the best combination of
them for researchers and healthcare professionals to use in helping their
patients maintain a healthy weight. These professionals include nutrition
researchers, dietitians and physicians, especially those specializing in
bariatric (obesity) or sports medicine.
Two of the instruments are lightweight, pocket-size "activity monitors"
for use in calculating the number of calories burned through physical activity.
Worn attached to a belt or waistband, the monitors use motion-sensor technology
to record the wearer's movements. That's unlike pedometers, for example, which
simply measure forward strides. The sophisticated new meters, in contrast,
record a wide range of the wearer's movement. Researchers can convert the
movement measurements into total calories burned.
The third instrument, a convenient, hand-held device, may replace
today's bulky "metabolic cart." The cart and the hand-held device both yield
"resting metabolic rate," or RMR, the number of calories an individual burns
while sitting quietly. Resting metabolic rate and physical activity together
account for about 90 percent of the calories that people burn.
In the current phase of the study, Kretsch and colleagues are working
with 20 healthy, normal-weight or overweight female volunteers, aged 25 to 40.
The next phase, with a new team of women volunteers, begins this fall.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.