There are lots of different theories about why some kids just can’t stand to eat vegetables. Some say parental eating habits teach kids to be picky, while some assume that the strange textures or flavors of some vegetables are just too much for little young palettes. The problem is that kids’ growing bodies desperately need the vitamins and nutrients that vegetables have to offer.
Even as grown-ups, the stress of life and work can often keep us from eating like we should. Bombarded by processed foods that are nothing more than sugar and fat wrapped up in starchy packages, it’s sometimes hard to know whether our diet is as nutrient-rich as it should be.
Typically, doctors and scientists take blood, urine, or skin samples to find out how much of a given type of food has been consumed. These tests are costly and time consuming, and make it difficult to conduct health and nutrition research in younger populations. A team of researchers from Yale University and the University of Utah have developed a new handheld laser scanner that could replace these unpleasant tests with a 30-second, pain-free procedure.
The device is made up of a flexible fiber optic probe attached to a central unit linked to a laptop, reports Gizmag. The probe essentially bounces blue laser light off the skin of the palm, and uses a long-known technique called resonance Raman spectroscopy (RRS) to measure the levels of skin carotenoids – high carotenoid levels are responsible for that slight yellowish skin discoloration that can be observed in people with high-vegetable diets.
“It’s really derived from an observation that people have known about for decades,” said Susan T. Mayne, head of the division of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at Yale, “and that is that when people have high-vegetable diets they develop a yellow skin coloration that is particularly noticeable in the palm of the hand because of the accumulation of carotenoids in the skin. And we thought, ‘Can we use that as a new approach to measure carotenoids in the body noninvasively?’”
Because it’s non-invasive and portable, the device holds a lot of promise for pediatricians and nutritional scientists working with children. Instead of forcing a young child to submit to uncomfortable tests, doctors could simply aim the laser reader at their skin, and have an accurate reading of nutrient levels within seconds.
Image via Yale University