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For training or losing weight: New sensor detects fat loss via breathing air

For training or losing weight: New sensor detects fat loss via breathing air


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New sensor developed: measure fat loss via breathing air

Researchers from Switzerland have developed a sensor that can be used to easily measure when the body starts burning fat using breath analysis. According to the scientists, the technology is "suitable for everyday use, for training in a fitness center or during a diet."

Endurance sports help you lose weight

According to studies, more and more overweight people live in Germany. Many try to get rid of their fat belly by avoiding certain foods or on a diet. But that alone is usually not enough. In order to reduce belly fat, it is usually necessary to exercise regularly. Endurance sports are particularly suitable here. With a newly developed sensor, it will be easy to use breath analysis to measure when the body starts to burn fat.

Fat loss is easily detectable in the air we breathe

Our body burns not only carbohydrates like sugar, but also fats during endurance training. When the body begins to burn fat can now be determined, for example, by analyzing biomarkers in the blood or urine.

Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich (USZ) have now developed a method with which fat loss can be detected easily and in real time in the breathing air of athletes.

"Fat loss in the body creates by-products that get into the blood," explained Andreas Güntner, postdoc in the group of ETH Professor Sotiris Pratsinis, according to the "ETH News".

In the alveoli, these molecules can escape into the air we breathe, especially the volatile ones among them. The most volatile of these fat loss products is acetone.

The Swiss researchers have developed a small gas sensor that measures this substance. Your sensor is much more sensitive than previous sensors: it can detect individual acetone molecules in hundreds of millions of other molecules.

In addition, the sensor only measures acetone and nothing else; the other more than 800 known volatile components in the breathing air do not influence the measurement.

The experts report on their new development in the “Analytical Chemistry” magazine.

Function of the sensor checked in sports enthusiasts

In collaboration with lung specialists at the University Hospital Zurich, the scientists checked the function of the sensor in sports volunteers. They completed one and a half hours of training on a bicycle ergometer with two short breaks.

At regular intervals, the researchers had the test subjects blow into a tube that was connected to the acetone sensor.

"We were able to show that the acetone emissions in the air we breathe differ greatly from person to person," explained Güntner.

The earlier and now outdated doctrine said that sports people only start to burn fat after a certain training time and heart rate.

In the measurements of the scientists, the fat burning in some test subjects actually only started towards the end of the one and a half hour training session. The measurements of other volunteers showed that their body burns fat much earlier.

Control measurements showed that the new measurement method corresponds well with the concentration of the biomarker beta-hydroxybutyrate in the blood of the study participants. This blood analysis is one of today's standard methods to track fat loss.

Chip was originally used to diagnose diabetes

The sensor developed by the scientists is a chip that is coated with a porous film made of special semiconducting nanoparticles. The particles consist of tungsten trioxide, which the researchers had mixed with individual silicon atoms.

The development of this chip started seven years ago. At that time, ETH researchers discovered that tungsten trioxide nanoparticles interact with acetone if the atoms of the nanoparticles are arranged in a certain crystal structure.

The interaction reduces the electrical resistance of the chip coated with the nanoparticles, which is measurable.

The original idea was to use the chip to diagnose diabetes. Because in the breathing air of patients with untreated type 1 diabetes, high acetone concentrations can be detected.

In the meantime, however, the scientists have been able to show that the sensor is sensitive enough to detect the very low acetone concentrations in the breath of athletes.

The researchers are refining the measuring technology to such an extent that it should be possible with chips that are significantly smaller than those used in the study. They should fit in a handy device.

"This enables athletes and those who want to lose weight to individually check when their body starts burning fat in order to optimize their training," said Güntner.

Technology for everyday use

Highly sensitive acetone measurements have previously been possible with other measuring devices - so-called mass spectrometers. However, these are large and very expensive laboratory devices.

The researchers use this in the current study to check their measurements. There are also portable devices for measuring acetone in the breath. However, these can only be used once and they only show the result after a few minutes.

"Our technology, on the other hand, has the major advantages that it is inexpensive, handy, yet highly sensitive and also enables real-time measurements," says Güntner. "It is therefore suitable for everyday use, for training in a fitness center or during a diet."

The scientists are now planning to further develop their measurement method to market maturity. A prototype measuring device already exists.

At the same time, the scientists are developing gas sensors for other medically interesting molecules in the air we breathe, including ammonia, which can be used to check kidney function, isoprene to investigate cholesterol metabolism, and various aldehydes for the early detection of lung cancer. (ad)

Author and source information


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