“Smart fork”: Useful feedback tool or dietary gimmick?

hapiforkDo you eat too quickly? Or eat too much? A novel tool, the HAPIfork, is designed to track eating habits, such as the number of forkfuls of food consumed and the speed of consumption. Sensors within the fork detect movement and allow for feedback to the eater.  Feedback can be immediate, in the form of vibrations and flashing lights triggered by eating too quickly. The fork is also paired with software or an app and measures meal duration, the number of forkfuls per minute, and the pauses between forkfuls enabling the user to track eating habits over time.

The developers suggest that the fork can help individuals track the speed at which they eat as well as the amount that they eat. Feedback from the fork then encourages the eater to eat more slowly take fewer forkfuls (eat less?). They extrapolate further, suggesting that eating more slowly and taking fewer forkfuls will benefit weight loss, digestive problems, and other health concerns.

Does it work? In order to answer this, we need to know both if the fork is successful at altering behaviour (e.g. to eat more slowly), and also if the change in behaviour can contribute to weight loss (e.g. does eating more slowly support weight loss). The developer’s web site indicates that a prototype of the fork was used at a medical centre to track and compare eating speeds. However, I was unable to find any published results about the fork. I suspect, that like many other tracking tools, some will find it very useful, others will initially be interested but the novelty will wear off, and yet others will not find it helpful at all.

Despite the common advice to eat slowly to allow time to feel full and thus eat less during a meal, a recent systematic review found only limited evidence to suggest that there may be an association between eating quickly and higher body weight, noting in particular that no longitudinal studies had examined this question(1). A 2007 study examined the effect of eating rate on the amount of food consumed at a meal, finding that eating slowly reduced food intake at a single meal for men, but not for women(2).

Would a fork that tracks your food intake be useful to you?

More information about the fork here:

References

Mesas A. E. et al, Selected Eating Behaviours and Excess Body Weight: A Systematic Review, Obes Rev. 2012;13(2):106-35

ResearchBlogging.orgMartin CK, Anton SD, Walden H, Arnett C, Greenway FL, & Williamson DA (2007). Slower eating rate reduces the food intake of men, but not women: implications for behavioral weight control. Behaviour research and therapy, 45 (10), 2349-59 PMID: 17517367

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