Home breath test can track how a single meal affects your metabolism

CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom — Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University have found that a simple breath test can detect the impact of a single meal on your metabolism — without having to leave your home! This is the first study to examine the practical use of the Lumen breath device outside of a lab setting. It’s also the first device to allow people to monitor their own metabolism.

“Ours is the first study to investigate the practical use of this breath device. What makes this technology interesting is that up to now, the only way to assess metabolic function has been under laboratory conditions using advanced and expensive respiratory analyzers,” says lead author Dr. Justin Roberts, Associate Professor in Nutritional Physiology for Health & Exercise at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

The researchers split this work into two parts. The first part confirmed its effectiveness under controlled lab conditions using the Lumen and the Douglas bag air test, which is a gold standard for respiratory analysis testing. It included 12 healthy participants that consumed a high-carb meal after fasting. Then, the team took respiratory measurements at rest and then 30 and 60 minutes after the meal with the Lumen and Douglas bag test.

The Lumen is able to catch the percentage of carbon dioxide (%CO2) as the user breathes out, and results showed a significant increase in %CO2 within 30 minutes of the meal. An increase in %CO2 as measured by the Lumen displayed a link to an increase in respiratory exchange ratio (RER), which means that the device can detect an acute change in carb consumption.

pasta carbs
(Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels)

For the second section of the study, the team investigated if the device could detect metabolic changes while eating a normal diet as well as a high or low-carb diet over a one-week timeframe. For this part, 27 healthy and active adults took measurements at home using the Lumen at set points throughout each day, in order to show how the device can fit into a normal lifestyle. Researchers found that the Lumen device can detect changes in %CO2 over the week in response to acute dietary changes, but it wasn’t sensitive to day-to-day changes. This might indicate that the device is better for tracking long-term dieting results.

“When people leave the lab there are limited means to accurately assess metabolic changes at home, such as fuel use and whether the person is likely burning more fat or carbohydrates, either in response to a diet or exercise. Therefore, the findings from our study demonstrate that a home-use portable device like Lumen could be a useful way of tracking weekly changes in dietary interventions when dietary carbohydrate is the main variable being changed. It should be noted that our study only tracked for a short period, therefore longer-term studies are needed to assess whether the device can detect metabolic adaptations over time,” explains Dr. Roberts in a university release.

These findings move metabolic research in the right direction, but Roberts also emphasizes that it’s important for Lumen users to understand the levels of nuance with metabolism. Metabolic adaptations and interpretation of data on a day-to-day basis can all be different, so users need to keep this in mind.

The findings are published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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