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
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
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
"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.