ASU Faculty Spin-Off Unveils New Portable Metabolism Tracker

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Innovative device provides personalized weight management.

Breezing is demonstrated by an ASU student.
“Breezing is the first battery-operated metabolism tracker that syncs with smartphones for anyone to use, anywhere and anytime.”

Scientists at Arizona State University have launched a startup company offering an innovative device that helps people develop a personalized weight management plan based on their own metabolic profile.    

Breezing, a handheld device about the size of a computer mouse, is the world’s first battery-operated portable metabolism tracker that syncs with a smartphone. It was created by ASU researchers NJ Tao, Erica Forzani, Francis Tsow and Xiaojun Xian using core technology developed in the Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors at ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

“We are delighted that this group of ASU scientists has advanced their research from a laboratory into an easy-to-use device that has the potential to improve human health,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “This commercial product is an example of how research innovation in our laboratories has direct impact on the health and well-being of our society.”

While other metabolism tracking tools exist, most are designed for use by medical professionals in clinical settings and are generally large, bulky and difficult to use. Breezing is unique because it is the first metabolism tracker designed specifically for consumer use.

“Breezing is the first battery-operated metabolism tracker that syncs with smartphones for anyone to use, anywhere and anytime,” said Tao, a professor of electrical engineering and chemistry at ASU and director of the Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors.

The researchers’ startup company, also called Breezing, has launched a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.com to fund production of the device. The company aims to raise $100,000 by March 13.

“We have been working hard to reduce the cost of Breezing without compromising quality,” Tao said. “Our goal is to make it affordable to everyone, and we launched the Indiegogo campaign to reach mass production, which will help us reach a greater number of users.”

Breezing measures an individual’s metabolism – the physical and chemical processes that use or convert energy, such as breathing, circulation and digestion – using indirect calorimetry, the measurement of the body’s rates of oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production. Indirect calorimetry is considered the gold standard for metabolic measurement and is the method preferred by the World Health Organization, American Dietetic Association and American College of Sports Medicine.

Using tiny oxygen and carbon dioxide sensors, Breezing analyzes the user’s exhalations when he or she breathes into the device. Breezing then uses that information, which is transmitted via Bluetooth from the device to an integrated app on a smartphone or tablet, to calculate the user’s resting energy expenditure (REE). REE, or resting metabolic rate, is the amount of energy the body uses to carry out metabolic processes.

How does knowing one’s REE help with weight management? Weight is determined by caloric intake minus total energy expenditure. REE accounts for 80 to 90 percent of total energy expenditure, while physical activity accounts for less than 10 percent. In other words, the body burns most of its energy while at rest, not during physical activity. Breezing allows the user to measure his or her REE and use that data to adjust caloric intake and exercise as necessary to meet personal weight goals.

“REE determines what our bodies need to sustain life,” Tao said. “Knowing metabolism tells us how many calories we should be eating to maintain, lose or gain weight.”

Each person’s REE is different and can be affected by factors such as body size and composition, age, sex, medical conditions and genetics. Two people who are the same age, sex, height and weight might have different REE levels and thus different caloric needs. With Breezing, each individual can determine his or her own REE and tailor diet and exercise accordingly.

Breezing also allows users to track their respiratory quotient, which indicates whether the body is burning carbohydrates, fats or a mix of both. In addition, it tracks both weight history and REE history, providing a picture of changes in weight and metabolism over time.

Breezing currently works with Android devices, and an app for iPhone and iPad is in development. The device will be available in May through a licensing agreement with Arizona Technology Enterprises, ASU’s technology-transfer arm. It can be pre-ordered now for $250 (a full Breezing device and 10 sensor cartridges) through the Indiegogo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/metabolism.

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Joe Caspermeyer
The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University
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