Doctors are testing this 'Fitbit for the stomach' to help patients lose weight

  • These doctors wanted greater insight into their patients' gut activity, so they invented a wearable that sits on the stomach.
  • They are testing whether it can be useful for patients looking to lose weight, and recover from surgeries more quickly.

Consumer health devices are giving all of us new insights into our bodies, from the quality of our sleep to the number of steps we take each day.

But thus far, the stomach remains elusive.

Doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles are testing out a new wearable called "AbStats," that can read the stomach in a similar manner to how a Fitbit tracks steps. The device was invented by Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research at Cedars-Sinai.

The device, which sits neatly on the stomach, uses sensors to record how our gut sounds when it's digesting food or at rest. The algorithm is trained to hear relevant sounds from the gut like cracks and rumbles.

Spiegel's team is currently testing the device on patients who are recovering from surgery to assess when they're ready to consume liquids or solids. Previously, doctors had to guess. Making sure it's the right time to eat for these patients could prevent complications and help them return home more quickly.

The doctors are also researching whether AbStats can assist patients looking to manage their weight or drop a few pounds. Spiegel thinks that one key reason people gain weight is that they regularly eat full meals before fully digesting the previous one.

As Spiegel explains, the device will flash green, yellow or red to notify a user when it's the right time to eat. That's useful as the brain and the gut aren't always in sync.

"If you don't give your body a chance to do that (fully digest a meal), you just start piling up the food," he said. "When you start eating, it stops that process."