Saturday, March 5, 2011

One step closer to Star Trek's tricorder

I watched plenty of Star Trek when I was younger, and have to admit my fascination with the tricorder. Doctors Bones, Crusher, and that hologram guy from Voyager always had the device on their hip ready to diagnose an intracranial hemorrhage or some bizarre alien poisoning.

German researchers have announced the development of a proto-tricorder. It is apparently going on sale in Europe for about $280 and gives you a 1 to 10 score of your health based on "antioxidants" detected in your skin.

My impressions:

  • I am not impressed by anything that is announced via press release and does not have a scientific publication to go along with it. For all I know, this uses the same technology as a mood ring.
  • It detects "antioxidants". What does that mean? What if I have been poisoned by arsenic, or I have cancer, or I am having a heart attack. Surely these conditions would score low on a 1 to 10 health scale, but how are they to be detected by skin levels of "antioxidants"?
  • In the press release, they were able to use the device to detect changes in diet and smoking, which I admit would be an interesting observation to be able to make, however, again there is no peer reviewed literature. I can detect smokers too, using my keen sense of talking to them and smelling their smoker's breath.
Do you need this device to detect your level of health? No. Here is a much simpler and cheaper way to assess your health. Ask yourself, do I follow these four healthy behaviors?
  1. Not smoking
  2. Exercise regularly
  3. Eat vegetables
  4. Drink alcohol in moderation (1-14 beverages a week)
If you do all four, you are likely to live 14 years longer, than someone who does none.

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