Lumen’s Handheld Metabolism-Tracking Device

Tech that's been around for decades, but never so personalized, easy or efficient

Lumen, a pocket-sized device designed to “hack” and track your metabolism, officially launches today. The device (which resembles a vaporizer) features a hollow interior equipped to read your breath as it passes through. Essentially, it’s founded upon a simple equation: if you’re breathing out high amounts of CO2, you’re burning carbs, and if you’re emitting lower CO2 amounts, you’re burning fat. But the technology designed to capture that equation’s keystone metrics has long been costly and demanding, oftentimes requiring patients to sit for multi-hour breathing exercises (known as RER) and lengthy follow-ups. After a month of testing the device from home, we were impressed with its capabilities and sought out information on its inception.

Founders Michal and Merav Mor, twin sisters and PhDs in physiology and cell biology, were in the final year of their education when they began training for an Ironman competition. The Mors felt that their research could inform how they worked toward the grueling experience, which is comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.22-mile run. “It takes you 12 to 15 hours,” Merav explains. “And in order to do that, you must use nutrition in order to support your workout and to improve your performance.”

Merav says they noticed “a huge gap between the basic science and the clinical practice, meaning the technology and the knowledge and the insights that you can find in the science world is amazing, but eventually, what you can really use on a daily basis to make smarter decisions is very limited.” Eight years ago the pair founded Lumen, with a mission “to close this gap, to bring the technology that is already being used in the scientific world to the consumer.”

Today, their new handheld device’s most impressive attribute is its ability to condense the data collection process to just three breaths. The process prompts users to breathe through the device’s mouthpiece—inhaling for roughly five seconds and holding for 10, then exhaling at a steady pace. The simplicity and efficiency of this activity, checking in on one’s own metabolism each morning, becomes an easy habit.

But Lumen isn’t a dieting device; it’s a health-monitoring tool. “The main goal with lumen is first to promote health,” Merav tells CH. “And health meaning a healthy metabolism, which is a flexible metabolism… Metabolic flexibility is your ability to rely on fat stores in the morning, and to shift easily toward using carbs after consuming a high carb meal, for example. Metabolic flexibility represents your ability to use both type of fuel very easily and very comfortably.”

Alongside the breathing exercise, Lumen relies on user-submitted data points: the number of carb servings eaten the day before, how long breaks between meals lasted, the number of steps taken, workouts, how long users slept, and their current weight. All this data is considered and condensed to an assigned number from one to five, with one being burning fat exclusively and five being burning carbs only. Rather than a score or a grade, the assigned number provides a status update without praise or criticism.

With these numbers, Lumen guides users through the ups and downs of their metabolism—training it to burn fats some days and carbs others. This training ensures that even without the device, bodies will bounce back from more unhealthy days. It also debunks diets, and alerts users when a current eating plan doesn’t seem to be working for their body.

“If you are in a low-carb diet for too long, you actually lose the ability to use carbs as legitimate fuel, which means that once you will eat carbs, your body will take those carbs and convert them to fat and store them as fat,” Michal adds. “In order to maintain your body’s ability to use both types of fuel, the app is, all the time, changing the personal ambition plan based on your own unique metabolism.” The personal ambition plan allows users to create their own goal: be it boosting energy, increasing muscle mass or losing weight. It also suggests daily nutrition plans and the adjacent app offers meal suggestions and recipes.

“The science is already there,” Merav says. “There’s an understanding that a healthy metabolism—a flexible metabolism—is actually the main player behind everything that you want to achieve. It’s not important if your goal is weight loss, athletic performance, or avoiding diabetes—all these are an outcome of a healthy metabolism. And, of course, this technology is not new. It’s something that’s already been used since the ’60s to measure metabolism. Athletes are using it all the time, people with diabetes use it in hospitals. It’s just that this technology has several disadvantages, and Lumen makes it all far easier.”

“The main questions our users have when they wake up in the morning are: ‘How is my body functioning? What did I do and the past two or three days that affected my metabolism? What should I do today? What should I eat?'” Michal tells us. “They want Lumen to tell them exactly the amount of carbs and the amount of fat and protein they should receive. We provide our users a sense of control and the data to empower them to make smarter decisions.”

Images courtesy of Lumen