Microsoft designs ‘food and mood’ bra to prevent emotional overeating.

We eat not just because we are hungry and craving nutrients, but for a host of emotional and habitual reasons that could lead to obesity. Stress is another common trigger of overeating and usually involves consuming fatty foods, which may increase the unhealthy effects of stress on the heart, like raising blood pressure.

Many scientific studies have linked high blood pressure and obesity. Research estimates that obesity accounts for around 26 percent of cases of hypertension in men and 28 percent in women. Meanwhile, 36 percent of American adults are obese and about 29 percent have hypertension.

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, obesity increases the risk of a number of health conditions including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease (CAD), sleep apnea and cancer. Obese people also have a 50-100 percent increased risk of premature death, and it’s estimated that obesity may be the cause of 300,000 deaths per year.

However, Microsoft researchers have come up with a bra sensor that helps detect stress so that it can track the wearer’s mood and caution when they are eating too much or are about to.

Some recent apps have been designed to help people manage stress and their eating habits, but the Microsoft team explained that these technologies have mostly relied on fixed contexts to offer support such as alarms at particular times of the day; showing performance updates when one glances at their mobile phones; and user-activated support. However, long-term behavioral change requires intervention that proactively prevents the behavior from happening in the first place.

Designing a “just-in-time” intervention system involved exploring the emotional triggers of eating, developing elaborate technology for automatically detecting emotions, and investigating intervention approaches for emotional eating.

The outcome was the design of a novel, wearable sensor system for detecting emotions. The system consisted of physiological sensors, which were placed into women’s bras. The team said they tested the sensing system and found positive results for emotion detection in this mobile, wearable system.

The bra is equipped with a standard microprocessor powered by a 3.7-volt battery. It’s able to simultaneously monitor up to eight bio-signal channels, according to the research paper, “Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating,” presented recently at the Society for Affective Computing conference.

The system tracks heart rate and respiration with an EKG (electrocardiogram) sensor. The bra sensors can also detect the movement of the person with an accelerator and gyroscope and the skin conductance with an electrodermal activity sensor. Any fluctuation in mood and the bra sends the wearer an alert to their smartphone using Bluetooth technology.

The only issue with the new tech is that its battery life is short so they have to be changed every 4 hours. This is being explored.

Mary Czerwinski, a cognitive psychologist and senior researcher at Microsoft said, “It’s mostly women who are emotional overeaters, and it turns out that a bra is perfect for measuring EKG. We tried to do the same thing for men’s underwear but it was too far away (from the heart).”

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