Nav: Home

Help at hand for people watching their weight

July 12, 2016

Researchers from the University of Sydney's Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders have developed a portable and easy-to-use method to help people estimate portion size using only their hands.

In the first-ever study to assess the accuracy of hand-based methods for measuring food portions, finger width was used as a 'ruler' to gauge the dimensions of foods and glasses of liquids. These measurements, combined with geometric formulas of volume and food density factors, resulted in an objective and acceptably accurate estimate of the weight of the food.

The research, led by PhD candidate and Accredited Practising Dietitian Alice Gibson, was published in the Journal of Nutritional Science today.

Ms Gibson's attempts to understand her own eating habits motivated her to pursue this research, as part of her doctoral thesis at the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre into clinical weight loss trials.

"I completed a food diary for a week and that's when I realised how hard it would be for people to accurately estimate the true amount of food on their plates, particularly for difficult-to-measure foods like lasagne. It struck me I had no accessible or reliable way of doing so," she said.

"I realised there was a gap in the market for people trying to eat sensibly when they're out and about, when they don't have access to a set of scales."

Comparing estimated weights from the 'finger width' method with the true weight of the food, Ms Gibson and her colleagues also tested the use of fists, finger tips and thumbs. The study examined the responses of 67 participants who were tasked with estimating the portion sizes of 42 pre-weighed foods and liquids.

All hand methods were compared with household methods (cups and spoons) and subjective size descriptions (small, medium, large).

The 'finger width' method was found to be more accurate than household measures and size descriptions for estimating food portions. Eighty percent of food sizes assessed with the 'finger width' method were within 25 percent of their true weight, compared with 29 percent of those estimated using the household method.

"While more research is needed to fine-tune the technique, I think there's real potential for this tool to be incorporated into electronic platforms such as smartphone applications so that the calculations are automated and estimating food intake on-the-go is more accurate," said Ms Gibson.

"Better accuracy when estimating food and drink intake will allow dietitians to tailor nutrition advice and recommendations even further, ultimately benefiting clients," she added.

In early recognition of the research, Ms Gibson was recently awarded the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) President's Award for Innovation for her tool.

The award is in Honour of the memory of Josephine (Jo) Rogers AM, a University of Sydney graduate and President and Vice?President of the Australian Dietetic Council (the forerunner of DAA) between 1959 and 1967.

"It is fantastic to have this tool validated, providing an easy-to-use, evidence-based resource that will be available to all practitioners anywhere, anytime," said DAA President Liz Kellett.
-end-
Ms Gibson and her team are now seeking Sydney-based participants for clinical weight loss trials to test this new method. For more information or to register your interest email tempo.diet@sydney.edu.au.

University of Sydney

Related Weight Articles:

How much postmenopause weight gain can be blamed on weight-promoting medications?
Abdominal weight gain, which is common during the postmenopause period, is associated with an array of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.
Commercial weight management groups could support women to manage their weight after giving birth
Women who were overweight at the start of their pregnancy would welcome support after they have given birth in the form of commercial weight management groups, University of Warwick-led research has found.
Rollercoaster weight changes can repeat with second pregnancy, especially among normal-weight women
Everyone knows that gaining excess weight during one pregnancy is bad, but clinicians rarely consider weight gains and losses from one pregnancy to the next -- especially in normal-weight women.
Early and ongoing experiences of weight stigma linked to self-directed weight shaming
In a new study published today in Obesity Science and Practice, researchers at Penn Medicine and the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity surveyed more than 18,000 adults enrolled in the commercial weight management program WW International, and found that participants who internalized weight bias the most tended to be younger, female, have a higher body mass index (BMI), and have an earlier onset of their weight struggle
Being teased about weight linked to more weight gain among children, NIH study suggests
Youth who said they were teased or ridiculed about their weight increased their body mass by 33 percent more each year, compared to a similar group who had not been teased, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.
Association between weight before pregnancy, weight gain during pregnancy and adverse outcomes for mother, infant
An analysis that combined the results of 25 studies including nearly 197,000 women suggests prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) of the mother was more strongly associated with risk of adverse maternal and infant outcomes than the amount of gestational weight gain.
Study: Faster weight loss no better than slow weight loss for health benefits
Losing weight slowly or quickly won't tip the scale in your favor when it comes to overall health, according to new research.
What your choice of clothing says about your weight
It's commonly said that you can tell a great deal about a person by the clothes they wear.
Stand up -- it could help you lose weight
You might want to read this on your feet. A new study published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that standing instead of sitting for six hours a day could prevent weight gain and help people to actually lose weight.
Cash for weight loss
A new study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, has shown that selling rewards programmes to participants entering a weight loss programme is a low cost strategy to increase both the magnitude and duration of weight loss.
More Weight News and Weight Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have. We think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful beings, issuing momentous rulings from on high. But they haven't always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, started it all.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.