The constant stream of new iPhone apps experienced over the last few years has entertained, informed and, believe it or not, made many people healthier.
Many developers are using the popular mobile device to bring people software applications, known as "apps," that help track their own health, helping them learn about their bodies, as well as understand what steps they can take to improve. Your iPhone can help you sleep, wake you up, help you exercise, track your medical conditions, manage your diet, and much more.
There are over 255,000 apps in the iTunes store, but one stands out because of the unique way that it uses the iPhone's many features, most notably, the camera.
The Thin-Cam, which costs $0.99 on the iTunes store, keeps a virtual food diary of all of your meals with the snap of a picture. Every time you take a picture on the Thin-Cam it is automatically loaded to your profile on Thin-Site.com, where you can track your food diary over time, as well as share it with a doctor.
"You basically whip it out with your food in front of you, you open the app, you snap a picture, you type a couple of notes, and it's saved. It goes right to Thin-Site," said Dr. David G. Edelson, assistant clinical professor at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York City and medical director for Thin-Site.com. “This is a great tool for a nutritionist to use.”
Like many iPhone apps, the Thin-Cam makes tedious, but important, tasks like keeping a food diary, or keeping track of your blood pressure or cholesterol, more convenient. The Thin-Cam also takes away a lot of the guess work involved in keeping a written food log, Edelson said. When there is picture evidence of your food choices, there are no excuses for recording the wrong portion size, or leaving out a meal.
"I deal with patients so regularly who say, 'I don't eat anything,' but they're 100 pounds overweight… And I always wished that I could hang a little pendent around their neck that would be like a video camera, and would track everything that goes into their mouth," he said. And as Apple would say; now “there's an app for that.”
This allows the doctor to help their patients with greater precision, but it isn’t the solution to their problem.
“Dieting is really just a short-term quick fix. Unless you understand why you gain the weight in the first place, it's never going to be any kind of permanent solution,” Edelson said.
Edelson launched what he calls a comprehensive wellness facility 10 years ago called HealthBridge, with the goal of educating people about their health. The program has nutritionists, physical therapists, and personal trainers who work together to help people address their specific challenges when it comes to weight loss, and track their progress.
Now, Edelson’s team is extending their reach on Thin-Site.com.
“My hope is that Thin-Site becomes sort of a hub for everybody’s overall weight-loss needs and concerns, and we can begin to create a comprehensive approach to managing people's weight,” Edelson said. "The whole concept of Thin-Site is having professionals available to help you through this process of learning about all the barriers that you have to losing weight."
Edelson has additional features for the Thin-Cam in the planning stage, including a feature called Thin-alysis. Nutritionists from Thin-Site’s team will be able to evaluate users’ Thin-Cam photos on their Thin-Site profile.
Another builds on the idea of making weight loss interactive by customizing people’s Thin-Site profiles to allow them to post Thin-Cam pictures on Facebook. Similarly, apps, like RunKeeper Free and iFitness, allow you to share the data from your work outs on Facebook and Twitter.
Edelson hopes that making this type of personal health data visible to others online will lead people to make healthier decisions.
“It also creates sort of a negative incentive. If you're going to take a photo of an ice cream sundae, you're going to think twice about eating it,” he said. “I think there is a tremendous amount of potential here that isn't even close to being tapped.”