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University of Bern research

Phone app counts carbs with a shutter click

The smartphone application estimates the volume of carbohydrates on a plate by taking a picture ()

The smartphone application estimates the volume of carbohydrates on a plate by taking a picture

University of Bern researchers have developed a smartphone app that helps diabetics measure the amount of carbohydrates on their plates by taking a photo.

By interfacing with a smartphone’s built-in camera, the application sorts and recognises various foods such as meats, vegetables and pasta and reconstructs them in a three-dimensional form. Then, using that reconstruction, it estimates the volume of each food item.

Using a database of nutritional values for various foods, the app then estimates how many grams of carbohydrates are contained in each part of the meal. Based on that information, it recommends how much insulin the diabetic user should inject.

Stavroula Mougiakakou of the Center for Biomedical Engineering Research at the University of Bern said there are already apps on the market that measure the amount of carbohydrates in food, but “the food details must be entered manually, or the programme won’t provide any estimate of how much insulin is required”.

The researchers said the app was needed because it’s generally difficult for diabetics to estimate how many carbohydrates their food contains; their estimates range from half to twice the actual amount, according to Peter Diem of the university’s clinic for endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition.

Some 500,000 people in Switzerland suffer from diabetes, among 347 million worldwide.

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