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Suffolk: McLaren F1 technology to help in battle against obesity

PUBLISHED: 11:06 16 January 2014 | UPDATED: 11:06 16 January 2014

Dr Simon Rudland at Stowhealth in Stowmarket with the monitoring device being used in a project to help tackle obesity which involves technology developed for the McLaren F1 racing team.

Dr Simon Rudland at Stowhealth in Stowmarket with the monitoring device being used in a project to help tackle obesity which involves technology developed for the McLaren F1 racing team.

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Technology developed to track the performance of Formula 1 racing cars is about to be used in a medical trial in Suffolk which aims to help tackle the problem of obesity.

How the monitoring system works

Stowmarket GP surgery Stowhealth is seeking to recruit 90 people for the trial, with about 20 patients already signed up.

Participants will be asked to use a two-part device, involving a small monitor which attaches to the chest using two tabs, either side of the heart, and a pocket-sized unit which downloads the information from the monitor using Bluetooth technology and uploads it to a central site via Wifi.

The device will offer users an instant update on the number of calories they have burnt that day, calculated from their activity level using specially developed algorithms, with a more detailed breakdown available by signing in online.

During the research, participants will receive advice on exercise and healthy eating habits, with their progress being analysed by researchers at University Campus Suffolk.

Anyone interestest in joining the trial should call project co-ordinator Aaron Tietjen at UCS 01473 338459.

The “telemetry” system used to collect and transmit data for the McLaren F1 team is now being applied to monitoring the activity levels of people with series weight problems.

The year-long “Helping Health Change” study aims to help the individuals to relate the calories in the food they eat to the energy their body burns off through physical activity, and so assist them in making healthier lifestyle choices.

It involves a collaboration between McLaren Applied Technologies, part of the same group as the McLaren F1 team, Stowhealth, a GP surgery based in Stowmarket which is a member of the EADT’s Suffolk Future50, and academics at Ipswich-based University Campus Suffolk, using funding provided by healthcare provider Simplyhealth.

Stowhealth GP Simon Rudland, who is championing the research project, said: “Obesity is a problem that affects roughly a quarter of adults in the UK, and evidence suggests that these numbers are rising.

“Our hope is that the Helping Health Change study funded by Simplyhealth will help shape the way we empower the vast number of individuals with weight-related conditions to make informed decisions based on accurate, factual evidence.”

Prof Brendon Noble, who heads the School of Science, Technology and Health at UCS, added: “These are the first steps in a revolution in healthcare technologies and we are delighted that our experts are helping to drive this forward.”

Geoff McGrath, managing director of McLaren Applied Technologies, said: “How we manage the health and performance of a racing car, week in week out, and what doctors are looking to achieve in the monitoring of patients is not that different.

“We develop systems that collect, transmit and manage vast amounts of data per race to better understand how the car is performing and diagnose any changes that need to be made.

“We are applying the same approach to this study, but in this instance to help provide an accurate and well-informed picture of an individual’s energy usage. The key thing here is making the collected data useful and interpretable for GPs, so that they can provide tailored advice to their patients.”

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