Keeping obesity in check, with aid from technology

SINGAPORE: In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about 13 per cent of the world’s adult population was obese, a number that has doubled since 1980.

The problem of obesity has spurred new weight loss technologies and big business opportunities in the market. Channel NewsAsia’s The Big Idea takes a closer look at some of these offerings entering the market today.


Did you know that our desire to eat involves not just taste, but combines inputs from our other senses as well? Professor Hiroshe from the University of Tokyo invented Diet Goggles, an innovation that fools our sense of sight.

A camera on the goggles feeds images of food into a computer. The images that get transmitted back to the goggles are enlarged by up to 50 per cent of its original size. The result: Better control of the food portion consumed.

Experiments conducted by the professor revealed that the average person consumed 10 per cent less with the goggles on.


Another device by Professor Hiroshe, called Taste Display, confuses the user’s senses of sight and smell. Different scents get fired into the nostrils, confusing the taste buds and the brain into thinking the user is eating something flavourful, when the person is not.

Fooling the senses: The Taste Display turns host Justin Bratton’s plain cookie into a chocolate chip cookie.


Inspired by the gastrostomy tube that brings food into the stomach for those who cannot consume food orally, Dr Kathy Crowthall had the idea of doing the exact opposite.

The CEO of Aspire Assist Bariatrics designed a prototype device that helps remove food from your stomach through a tube.

“About 20 minutes after a meal, patients will go to the restroom and they’ll hook up this apparatus. As soon as they do that and open a valve, contents from the stomach will drain from the stomach, down into the toilet,” she explained.

While the device is still awaiting approval from US’s Food and Drug Administration, a number of countries around the world have already started using the device. For example, a patient in Sweden is said to have lost 40 kilogrammes in five months after being part of the company’s programme.

Dr Crowthall’s Aspire Assist clinical trials is said to have resulted in up to 50 per cent weight loss for some obese patients.


McLaren, one of the most successful teams in Formula One racing history, is applying its cutting-edge technology in a completely unrelated area – the human body.

McLaren collects very accurate, high frequency data from their Formula One cars and use the information to help them during races. Applying that same concept to health-monitoring, the company believes that information collected about the human body will help people make more informed dietary and exercise decisions.

Its product, LifeinSight collects high quality, medical-grade information about the user’s body and relays it to the person, his or her doctor and the engineers at McLaren for analysis.

Engineers at McLaren turn data collected by LifeInSight into charts about your body condition.

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