Last Updated Mar 13, 2015 12:37 PM EDT
The most successful weight loss programs involve not only keeping track of what you eat, but also how much and when. A technology company has created a novel -- though slightly odd -- way to help dieters avoid overeating and stick to their plan: A smart necklace that tracks what you throw down your gullet and sends a pesky alert if you eat too much (or too little).
WearSens, billed as the "food diary you wear around your neck," uses piezoelectric sensors that measure food and drink intake, how long it takes you to gobble down that meal or snack, if you overindulge or wait too long to eat between meals.
These sensors track the vibration that occurs in the neck when a person chews food and swallows their drink. This "diet choker," designed by engineers at University of California Los Angeles, can even sense what type of food you're eating since something crunchy is likely to make the neck vibrate more than food that's soft. The sensors can also determine if a person is downing a hot or cold drink.
"It will tell them how much they've been eating, so it will help them with their portion control," Majid Sarrafzadeh, co-developer of the device, told CBS News. "It will tell them if they've been snacking too much. It will tell them if they've been dehydrated because they did not drink enough water."
The data is transmitted to a smartphone app. The app also asks a user to enter vital information -- such as gender, height and weight -- in order to accurately calibrate the data. The user also inputs information on their goals, whether it's to lose, gain or maintain weight. As is the case with other wearable tech devices such as the FitBit, this device finds trends in your habits by aggregating and tracking the data over an extended time period.
Sarrafzadeh conducted a small trial of 30 people to test the device. Each study participant ate a 3-inch portion of a Subway sandwich with a 12-ounce beverage to determine baseline measurements.
The study, published this month in IEEE Sensors Journal, found WearSens is 90 percent accurate.
For many people, the concept behind the necklace would seem a bit absurd and self-indulgent as a weight loss tool. However, the engineers also say WearSens could be used for some serious medical purposes. The necklace could help keep track of when a person takes their medications and make sure they don't miss a dose.
According to Popular Science, the team of engineers also are planning to collaborate with a lung transplant surgeon to use the device to remotely measure the breathing patterns of transplant recipients. Irregular breathing can signal that a patient's body is rejecting the organ.