Cell phone cameras help Japanese lose weight
TOKYO, Japan (AP) - Wondering how much of a diet-buster that banana
cream pie on your plate is? Some Japanese have a novel way to find out:
Photograph it with your cell phone and send the image to an expert.
With cell phones ubiquitous in Japan and rising concern over expanding
waistlines, health care providers have put two and two together to allow the
calorie-conscious to send photos of their meals to nutritionists for analysis
Public health insurance offices in Osaka prefecture in western Japan have
launched the service on a trial basis. About 100 cardiac patients signed up in
the first year, followed by diabetes and obesity patients in the second.
"Japanese have been getting fatter, especially men in their 20s and 30s, and
there is concern over what they learned about nutrition when they were younger,"
Osaka official Satomi Onishi said. "We're hoping that this program can help us
to get a handle on the problem."
Osaka is using a system developed by Asahi Kasei Corp., a Tokyo-based
chemical and medical equipment manufacturer. The system is operating at about
150 health care providers and local governments around the country, company
official Naoki Yoshimura said.
Nutritionists can work with photos from one day's meals to several weeks'
worth, he said. Results come back in three days. Participants also can log onto
a Web site to get further dietary information and upload photos from digital
Dr. Yutaka Kimura developed a similar system at Kansai Medical University's
Hirakata Hospital, also in Osaka prefecture. Five patients participate in the
program, which costs $37 (4,500 yen) to join and $21 (2,500 yen) per month
thereafter. Patients photograph meals over the course of three to seven days,
and a nutritionist e-mails back analysis and advice.
"Patients used to fill out meal logs, but people tend to forget things or
underestimate their portions," Kimura said. "Photographing meals and e-mailing
them in is easier and gets more accurate results."
The battle of the bulge is a growing obsession in Japan, a country that is
slowly losing its reputation for low-calorie fish-and-rice diets and slim
As Japanese have turned to bigger portions and more meat and fried foods,
obesity and related illnesses such as high blood pressure have become a rising
The Health Ministry estimated last year that more than half of Japanese men
and about one in five women between 40 and 70 years of age -- nearly 20 million
people -- were at risk of metabolic syndrome, a term for a cluster of conditions
associated with obesity, high cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease
and type 2 diabetes.
With the Health Ministry hoping to see a 25 percent reduction in the number
of people at risk of metabolic syndrome by 2015, Osaka officials hope the cell
phone program will help.
"Cell phones are everywhere here," Onishi said. "We're hoping they can now
make it easier for people to get help improving their diet."
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