One of the most discouraging things many of us run into when embarking on a new diet or exercise regime is the fact that we’re not totally sure it’s working. Especially those first few weeks, it can feel like a lot of effort for no results. And sometimes, for various reasons, that actually is the case. So, a Japanese mobile-phone company has come up with a solution that makes finding out if something works for burning fat as simple as blowing into a tube.

NTT Docomo is Japan’s biggest cellphone provider, and it’s constantly coming up with new ideas and, well, gimmicks, to sell its phones. The latest is the fat-burning breathalyzer. It’s simplicity itself: You blow into the tube and it measures the acetone on your breath.

Why is a breathalyzer looking for a chemical you generally associate with removing nail polish or paint? Well, when your body breaks down fatty acids, acetone is one of the end results. It’s a trace amount; you won’t be removing anything by blowing on it after a workout. But the more fatty acids you break down, the more acetone is released into your bloodstream… and thus the more acetone will be on your breath as it’s released through your lungs.

It’s worth noting that the device will only measure major changes; in the three groups used to test the device, only the group that restricted their caloric intake and engaged in exercise created enough acetone to move the needle. Which, of course, is part of the point; while you should definitely get in as much exercise as you can and eat more veggies, you’re not going to burn fat without major effort.


There’s no word on when this will be coming to the US, but considering our weight-obsessed lifestyle, it’s really only a matter of time.

Dan Seitz

Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.