Wireless sensors, mobile phones aid obesity battle

It's been widely reported that people have been using the Nintendo Wii, particularly the Wii Fit, to get in shape. Well, researchers have seized upon this trend to monitor Wii players--as well as runners, exercise junkies, weekend warriors and others interested in a more active lifestyle--with various wireless sensors and mobile devices to help fight obesity.

At the University of Southern California, child-obesity experts have outfitted overweight teens with wearable sensors to keep track of their exercise. The sensors transmit information to cell phones in a lab, but soon, test subjects will take the devices home and get text messages if heart monitors and sweat sensors indicate they are being lazy.

In Louisiana, where obesity is rampant, study participants at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center put wireless pedometers in their shoes and have been given BlackBerry Curves to take pictures of what they eat. Data and photos get sent to weight counselors, who then prepare personalized health advice for their charges.

These technologies can help take forgetfulness and other biases (read: lying) out of the reporting process, but they also can be intrusive, some say. ''As a researcher, I'm a professional voyeur, and I like to find out whatever I can about human subjects,'' UCLA psychologist and public-health professor William McCarthy tells the Associated Press. ''But if I were a subject, I'd be concerned about the level of detail that's being captured about my behavior from moment to moment.'' Others worry that people, particularly teens and young adults, will neglect to wear their sensors.

To learn more:
- check out this AP story in the New York Times