The device enables instant monitoring of fat burning by measuring acetone levels in breath

Acetone detector gauges fat-burning during exercise

Japanese researchers have created a portable device that measures acetone in breath, thus detecting in real time whether the body is burning fat.

Developed by a group of researchers from NTT DOCOMO Research Laboratories, the device consists of a pressure sensor to detect the exhaled breath and two types of semiconductor-based gas sensors to detect acetone.

The user simply blows into the device, which calculates the acetone concentration and sends the result to a smartphone, either via Bluetooth or a cable, within 10 seconds.

Ten centimetres long and weighing just 125 grams, the gadget is designed to fit into a pocket. Its sensors are capable of detecting acetone concentrations in the range of 0.2 to 50 parts-per-million.

Researchers have performed a two-week trial with 17 adult volunteers, all of them slightly heavier than the average Japanese population.

The volunteers were split into three groups: the first carried on with their normal life without any restrictions; the second was required to perform light exercise for 30 to 60 minutes each day; the third, apart from having to exercise, was subject to a diet limiting their daily caloric consumption.

During the two-week experiment, the researchers measured acetone levels in the breath of the volunteers using the device on daily basis, and monitored weight fluctuations.

Whereas the first two groups were neither producing any acetone, nor losing significant amount of weight, the third group was observed slimming down considerably and displayed increased levels of acetone in their breath.

"Because obesity increases the risk of lifestyle-related illnesses, enabling users to monitor the state of fat burning could play a pivotal role in daily diet management,” said the principal investigator, Satoshi Hiyama. “Current standard methods, however, are still not practically suitable for point-of-care instrumentation for diet-conscious people who wish to monitor their own fat metabolism at home or outside."

The researchers believe the device could also serve to conveniently monitor the health status of patients with diabetes.

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