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 Diet and Exercise By Computer
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RESTON, VIRGINIA U.S.A., 1996 JAN 25 (NB) -- Can a computer help Americans control their weight, cholesterol and blood pressure? A company called PICS believes it can.

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Copyright
1998, PICS, Inc.
The company is testing use of a palm-sized computer called a DietMate that encourages behavior modification in the areas of diet and exercise. The current study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, focuses on helping individuals with hypertension reduce their blood pressure through exercise and diet without the use of drugs.

An earlier study looked at how to encourage gradual weight reduction through a sustained diet, using the computer to provide expertise, tracking and followup.

The computer incorporates advice from the federal government's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans," which stress moderation rather than a binge approach to diet. The latest guidelines also include a recommendation for moderate exercise.

The guidelines explicitly caution against crash dieting and instead emphasize "...slow and steady weight loss of about one-half to one pound per week for those that need to lose weight."

According to Al Behar, PICS chief executive officer, the computer provides positive feedback and advice to a dieter, to prevent binge cycles of loss and gain. Behar told Newsbytes the platform for DietMate is about the size of a video cassette which contains several microprocessors, including an Intel 8086.

"This is designed for the average consumer on a diet, not for computer experts," said Behar. "It is no more complex than an average home appliance," The computer has a seven-line LCD screen that displays a variety of menus, and is controlled by up-down arrows, a yes-no key and an on-off switch. "It is designed so you don't have to read anything to get started," said Behar. When the unit is powered up for the first time, it administers a tutorial that guides the consumer through it use.

PICS has been selling earlier versions of DietMate for several years, at a cost of $197.50. They are available only from the company, and can be purchased at the DietMate website.

PICS earlier developed the LifeSign Stop Smoking program, which it says has helped over a million people in their efforts to quit smoking. LifeSign employs a credit card sized, computer combined with behavior modification to promote gradual withdrawal.


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